ST. AMANT — Playing a man down the final 10 minutes was no problem for St. Amant, which scored an important goal during that time and advanced to the Division I boys soccer playoff semifinals for the first time in school history.
St. Amant’s speedy and aggressive sophomore forward Tyler Bridgewater picked up a red card in the 70th minute, so the Gators had to play the rest of Monday’s home match with 10 players instead of 11.
Fourth-seeded St. Amant scored a goal in each half to defeat No. 5 Denham Springs 2-0 in a boys soccer quarterfinal match. St. Amant won the first meeting in December by the same score.
“Soccer is such a great sport, and I can’t call time out to change things,” St. Amant coach Adrian Garcia said. “We have seniors that have seen it all before. The players got together and figured out the right shape. We’re playing hot right now and I’m very proud of them.
“Our defense came up big. To hold an amazing team like Denham scoreless twice is amazing. I’ll take it.”
St. Amant (21-3-1) got an early goal from senior Henry Ecker in the third minute, and a late goal in the 75th minute from senior Caleb Cretini, who made a sliding shot on a corner kick by sophomore Ulrich Gaffney.
Cretini had the assist to Ecker, who celebrated his 18th birthday in style with his 6th goal of the season.
“It was great to get the early goal,” said Ecker, a four-year starter. “I saw the space behind their defense. I knew my player (Cretini) could get it over the top to me, so all I had to worry about was getting the ball into the goal.”
Denham Springs keeper Jose Ortega was lured out of the net on the first goal, and Cretini tapped in a 5-yard shot.
Denham Springs (21-5-2) had trouble containing Bridgewater, who had four shots on goal. Bridgewater picked up a yellow card in the 54th minute.
St. Amant was able to play 10 back in stretches and send the ball forward to Bridgewater.
“Bridgewater works hard, has good pace, and really puts defenses on their heels,” said Ecker, an attacking midfielder. “He gives me a lot of space and that’s really helpful in our attack.”
Denham Springs had opportunities to score. Elmer Romero sent a ball forward in the 71st minute, and senior Collin Turner fired a shot that hit the left post. Axel Agurcia had a shot in the 77th minute that was wide. William Chevalier and Turner had first-half shots on goal. St. Amant keeper Seth Hillegass had four saves.
Denham Springs coach Chris Thorne declined to be interviewed. It was the second straight season that Denham advanced to the quarterfinals and the third straight season for St. Amant.
St. Amant plays Tuesday’s Catholic at St. Paul’s winner in the semifinals.