NEW IBERIA — When two teams are as evenly-matched as the Newman and Catholic-New Iberia boys soccer teams are, the difference often comes down to execution.
During Saturday’s Division IV semifinal — a rematch of last year’s semifinal in New Orleans — the No. 3 Greenies executed just a bit better than the No. 2 Panthers did.
Emmet Morrison’s penalty kick with less than two minutes left proved to be the game-winner for Newman in a 3-2 win.
With Catholic-New Iberia trailing 3-1, the Panthers’ Michael Pope responded 30 seconds after Morrison's goal to produce the final score with hardly any time remaining.
Morrison felt no nerves at the time of his penalty kick, especially considering the Greenies were already leading 2-1 and not much time was left.
“Throughout the week, we’ve had players writing pregame hype speeches, getting everybody into it,” Morrison said. “So I think everybody was in the mentality for a win today. Every moment everybody had went pretty smoothly today. So it was a great performance.”
The victory sends Newman (13-6-3) to the state championship game for the second year in a row and fourth time in five years, searching for their first title since 2017. Newman has won eight state championships in boys soccer and has redemption on its mind after losing to Northlake Christian 2-1 in the final last year.
Newman will play No. 1 Episcopal on Saturday at Southeastern Louisiana’s Strawberry Stadium. The LHSAA has not announced the time of the Division IV fina.
“Redemption is honestly going to be the best feeling ever,” Morrison said. “So we’re hungry, and we’re going to keep going.”
Although Morrison’s goal was ultimately the decisive one, Newman’s Chris Brubacher broke a 1-1 deadlock midway through the second half. The senior gained possession and found open space, shooting the ball underneath Panthers goalkeeper William Russell’s hands for a 2-1 lead.
“I wasn’t feeling too fresh,” Brubacher said, “but when I came out here, I just know that you have to put it all on the line.”
That goal came after the Panthers (11-7-5) tied the match about 10 minutes earlier. Newman goalkeeper Emmet Paton fell to the ground trying to defend a shot, and when the ball deflected off his hands, Catholic New Iberia’s Parker Breaux capitalized. Breaux crossed the ball into the box, and CJ Gonsoulin knocked it home.
Newman scored its first goal in a similar scenario in the first half. A shot bounced off Russell’s hands and began rolling toward the corner of the goal. Russell dove and punched the ball away from the goal line, but the Greenies’ Sessions Hootsell was there to clean up the loose ball.
“When you play away, sometimes it’s easier,” said Newman coach Tooraj Badie. “You don’t have as much pressure on you. So I think we came here, and we knew they were going to be up for it. We only practiced 10 minutes yesterday because they were looking so good in practice. It was like, ‘Let’s just go home. Let’s just rest and be ready for today.’ ”
“Give credit to New Iberia. They’re a tough team. This felt like a final to me.”
Catholic-NI had far fewer chances than Newman in the first half, and one of the Panthers’ best scoring chances just missed the net. That’s when the Panthers were awarded a free kick off a penalty, and JP Theriot’s rocket shot hit the right post.
“Hats off to them,” Panthers coach Troy Arceneaux said. “I hope they take it to Episcopal for us because that’s who we were going to face.
“When we looked at the brackets, we were hoping to have an opportunity to play Newman at home because our game against them last season.
"Some calls could have gone better. I thought there were challenges that the ref just completely missed. It’s unfortunate, but both teams have to play with those ref’s calls. It sucks because we so many seniors. I’m a grown man, but I feel the tears for each and every one of them.”