Jesuit is going back to the Division I state soccer championship game.
The defending champion and second-seeded Blue Jays held off third-seeded Northshore 1-0 in a tight and tense semifinal match Saturday night at John Ryan Field.
Ashton Perkins produced the game’s only goal in the 60th minute, and goalie and fellow senior Jacob Randolph and the Jesuit defense and depth made it hold up against intense pressure from the Panthers.
“I think both teams knew coming in that this was going to be a high-intensity, very skillful match,” Jesuit coach Hubie Collins said. “Both teams were leaving it all on the pitch tonight, and we feel very fortunate and delighted that we came away the winners.”
The Blue Jays (22-0-5) will play the winner of No. 1 seed St. Paul’s and No. 4 seed St. Amant in the championship game at 7 p.m. next Saturday in Lafayette.
Perkins fielded a carom after a Jesuit free kick from in front and sent the ball through heavy traffic into the goal.
“Their defender headed it out, and I saw the ball in the air,” Perkins said. “When it came down I touched with my right foot behind my leg and I finished it with my left leg.”
Perkins said he “had no idea” whether the ball would find the goal when it left his foot.
“The big man upstairs helped me on that one,” Perkins said. “I can’t thank Him enough.”
The first half was contested equally and neither team had a significant scoring opportunity. Collins said he was hopeful the Jays’ superior depth would pay off in the second half.
“The game had ebbs and flows, and there were certain periods where I thought they had the upper hand and there were certain periods where we had the upper hand,” Collins said. “I thought we had the deeper bench and could go a little bit deeper and maybe rest some players, and I think eventually we were able wear them down.”
But Northshore (17-3-3), featuring 16 seniors and making its first semifinals appearance since 1991, kept the pressure on. Mateo Villanueva’s shot on goal was just wide in the 75th minute, Randolph made two stops in the 77th minute and Braden Neal’s header just missed in the final seconds.
“We knew it would be a tough, close game,” Panthers coach Ryan Lazaroe said. “Jesuit is always a powerhouse when it comes to soccer. We fought well and that’s how we got here. What these kids did this season was fantastic. I’m proud of them, and they should be proud as well.
“Jesuit made the most of their moment in goal. Sometimes the game can be cruel and it was cruel to us tonight.”
Perkins, Randolph and their fellow Jesuit seniors get a chance to play one more match — and perhaps win a second consecutive state title.
“This is one of the best feelings I can have in high school,” Perkins said. “This is what we work for every day. To have another chance to win a state championship with these guys means everything.”