Baton Rouge, a high school boys soccer mecca in 2020? A look at the LHSAA’s boys soccer playoff pairings certainly seems to validate that statement.
According to Denham Springs High coach Chris Thorne and others, the story behind the surge that includes three local teams seeded in the top four for Division I-Class 5A and the top seed in Division IV is a unique one.
“If you had told me before the season that we would be in this situation, I would not have believed you,” Thorne said. “We graduated practically our whole starting lineup. We’ve played a lot of young guys, who are talented. But to finish with the highest playoff seed in school history? I didn’t expect this.”
The Yellow Jackets (18-7-2) grabbed the No. 2 seed in Division I behind traditional power St. Paul’s (19-0-0) when the LHSAA released its boys soccer playoff pairings Wednesday.
And the story doesn’t end there. Episcopal (12-4-3) is the top seed in Division IV, while University High (15-3-2) claimed the No. 2 seed in Division III.
Just is notable is the fact that Catholic High (11-3-2) and Dutchtown (18-5-1) were seeded third and fourth, respectively, in Division I — setting a precedent for local 5A programs. The top eight seeds in all divisions claim bidistrict round byes and likely won’t play until next week because the bidistrict games are likely to be pushed back to Saturday by weather conditions.
“Seeding for the playoffs has a lot to do not only with your team, but also with your schedule,” Episcopal coach Kiran Booluck said. “We were No. 4 my first year and then second last year. We made some adjustments to our schedule and obviously have played well. Now the question is, can we finish this and win.”
Booluck, who also serves a senior director for the Baton Rouge Soccer Club, said that instead of having just a handful of good players, many local teams have been able to tap into a group of younger players who have filled varsity roles more quickly than expected.
U-High, the defending Division III champion, is another team that has quickly rebooted after graduating multiple starters.
“We have a group of young guys who got thrown into the fire early and they have responded,” U-High coach Chris Mitchell said. “I’m very pleased to be where we are.”
Denham Springs’ Thorne added, “I think most of us would say these are not our best teams. But they are playing well and this is what we got. We’ll take it.”