LAFAYETTE — University High’s boys soccer team won its first state championship in program history on last-second goal by Chris Bottcher to beat Loyola Prep 5-4 in extra time of the Allstate Sugar Bowl LHSAA Division III title game on Wednesday at the Ragin’ Cajun Soccer Complex.
It’s a moment Bottcher is going to remember for the rest of his life. The sophomore picked up a pass from Connor Kirkpatrick outside the 18-yard box and weaved through two Loyola defenders before scoring the game-winning goal.
Bottcher said his first thought was to dish the ball to another attack, but when he saw no one open he took it himself.
“I’ve never really felt anything like this,” Bottcher said. “It’s just pure excitement and joy, and it was amazing.”
The game was a wild ride for the Cubs, who defeated Loyola Prep 4-0 in December. U-High had taken the lead on a penalty by Kramer Mittendorf at the 35 minute-mark. However, it wouldn’t last as Loyola Prep scored three goals, including two goals of 30-plus yards, in the final five minutes of the first half to take a 3-1 lead.
U-High responded quickly in the second half as John Gordon McKernan scored off an assist by Kirkpatrick in the 42nd minute. Down one, the Cubs continued with a relentless attack and had key saves by goalkeeper Charlie McKenzie.
Then Kirkpatrick tied the game with a goal 57 minutes it and scored a second goal to take a 4-3 lead 11 minutes later.
“I think it has everything to do with what these guys have been through and how hard they’ve worked,” said U-High coach Chris Mitchell on the team’s second-half comeback.
It appeared U-High might hang on in regulation, but Loyola Prep sent a wave of attackers at U-High’s defense in the final minutes. And with game’s final whistle approaching, Carson Berry finished a chance from 20 yards out on a full turn to tie the game at four.
In extra time neither team had a clear shot on goal in the first 10-minute period. U-High’s Zach Whisnand had the best chance, but his shot was kept out by the goalkeeper.
A few minutes later Bottcher delivered.
“Chris has always been really headsy for us and he started last year for us as a freshman,” Mitchell said. “So it’s no surprise how strong he is on the ball and how aggressive he is on the ball. Sometimes we have to pull him back, but in that situation it was go for it and try to win this game and don’t go to penalty kicks.”
This was Mitchell’s first state championship as a coach after spending 19 years at U-High and three years at Baton Rouge High.
“It’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s been a long time. Every year you start off and everyone wants to win state, and we’ve had some amazing teams in my past history at U-High. Some of them have fallen short, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. This team was able to just persevere at the end.”