CADE — Nick Chetta’s anxiety skyrocketed in an instant.
The Northlake Christian soccer coach just witnessed Episcopal of Acadiana’s all-state striker Parrish Anderson convert two penalty kicks, roughly 90 seconds apart, late in the second half of Saturday’s Division IV semifinal at ESA, eventually won 4-2 by Northlake.
Moments before that, after Northlake’s Jace Windom produced his second goal to give the fifth-seeded Warriors a 4-0 lead, the NLC bench whispered about skunking top-seeded ESA by the same score it beat them in last year’s state final — 5-0.
But with about 15 minutes remaining, Anderson’s right foot provided tension. Chetta implored his player to “see the game out” because, after all, the opponent was ESA, the same program that hadn’t lost a match since the 2017 state championship. Even as the lead swelled to four goals, Chetta reminded his players to “be humble and work.”
“When we got up to four, we haven’t been there, and I think we got complacent,” Chetta said. “It just shows how good they are that they scored two goals in, I want to say, like a minute and a half and made it a game again. (ESA coach JB Brunet) is probably the best coach in the state. Parrish is definitely the best player in the state. So you have to have a lot of respect.
“But the goal was to get an early lead and see if we could defend. We were lucky.”
Maybe a little luck was required to dethrone the Falcons (16-1-2) in the end, but the Warriors’ four-goal cushion was too much for ESA to overcome. For the seventh time in the past nine seasons, NLC (12-5-2) is headed for the state championship, searching for their third title in that span.
“Beating the unbeatable is a great feeling,” said NLC senior Riley Ireland, putting air quotes around the word “unbeatable.” “They beat us 5-0 in state last year, and we were just waiting for that revenge. We worked our butts off to get it done.”
Certainly Chetta didn’t feel his club was five goals worse than the Falcons last year, but the difference between 2018 state final and Saturday’s meeting between the two Division IV heavyweights was NLC’s team chemistry this year, the coach said. That teamwork made the execution of their plan for Saturday’s matchup achievable.
“ESA’s just a fantastic group, so you have to have almost a perfect game to play against them,” Chetta said. “We weren’t quite perfect, but, man, it was definitely the performance that we needed. We asked them to play as a team and counter, and I think we did that efficiently. And take care of our free kicks, which I thought (we did).”
One of those free kicks was a sucker punch, giving NLC a surprising 2-0 lead heading into halftime. With about six minutes left in the first half, Windom, a freshman, drilled a set piece into the upper left corner.
“I was just waiting for them to set their wall because they went a little bit farther over, so I would have to curve it around the wall into the upper (left corner),” said Windom, who wears NLC’s coveted No. 18 jersey. “But they set it more toward the left post, so I could curve it easily around, up top.”
By the time Ireland netted his second goal — he scored his first 11 minutes into the game — in the 54th minute, the normally-sturdy Falcons appeared on their heels. Ireland’s goals Saturday were just his second and third goals of the season.
“I feel like there’s no way there’s they’re going to come back,” Ireland said when asked about going up 4-0. “Then we got lazy, and we had stupid fouls. But we kept our heads attached for the most part and saw the game out.”