Soccer on the rise

Kyle Riviere
The district championship again came to a classic match between St. Amant and Dutchtown this season. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

After a tough loss that saw her St. Amant team relinquish a 3-1 second-half lead to Dutchtown, head coach Joleigh Hartman said, “Gonzales soccer is just phenomenal right now. To see the high-school level around here have the caliber of teams that we have, I think it’s awesome for Ascension Parish.”

She couldn’t be more right.

The parish has always been competitive in soccer, but it’s one thing to be competitive. It’s quite another to be on the short list of teams vying for state championships every year.

That is where we are right now with Ascension soccer. There are multiple teams that have a chance to realistically make it to championship games next month.

Two years ago, we got to see a great East Ascension girl’s team make a memorable run. That team was led by Nicholls signee Blaire Laiche and a bevy of other talented players.

The Lady Spartans won the district that year and reached the state quarterfinals, where they fell just short against third-seeded Mount Carmel.

Last year, things really heated up between St. Amant and Dutchtown, for both the boys and the girls.

For the boys, the Gators and Griffins were on a collision course all season.

Heading into their clash in the season finale, Dutchtown had only lost one game all year and was 4-0-1 in the district. Meanwhile, St. Amant had only lost two games and was a perfect 5-0 in league play.

The encounter between these two rivals turned out to be the de facto district championship game.

What a game it turned out to be.

On two separate occasions, Dutchtown took a lead, but trailing 2-1 in the second half, St. Amant was able to tie the game and hang on for dear life.

Though the contest ended in a draw, the district title went to St. Amant, because they finished with one fewer draw than Dutchtown. It was the first time in school history that they won back-to-back league championships.

That Gator team was led by Briggs Bourgeois, who was the league MVP that season. It was the fourth straight year he earned that title.

He helped lead St. Amant to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2011. There, they were eliminated by eventual state champion St. Paul’s.

Like the boys, the Dutchtown and St. Amant girls played for the district crown in the 2016 regular season finale.

Behind a great effort by sensational sophomore Adelaide Gaffney, St. Amant took home their first league championship in 12 years.

Like the boys, the Lady Gators went on to reach the state quarterfinals. It wast their first trip in a decade, but they were eliminated by St. Joseph’s Academy.

It has been almost like deja vu in 2017.

For the boys, once again, St. Amant and Dutchtown steamrolled into their late-season district matchup at the top of the pack.

The Gators had only lost once all year and were undefeated in league play, while Dutchtown had also lost just one game and was riding an 11-game winning streak.

After ending in draws the past two meetings, it looked like Dutchtown was finally going to get over the hump as they took a 2-0 second-half lead, but St. Amant charged back.

The Gators lost a great all-star player in Bourgeois, but they gained another in Brazilian exchange student Angelo Fabrico. Fabrico has over 30 goals this season.

In the final 10 minutes, he dished out an assist for the tying goal, and then he scored the game-winner with less than two minutes remaining.

The victory helped the Gators win the district for a third straight season.

But Dutchtown isn’t going anywhere. The Griffins responded with an emphatic 5-0 victory over East Ascension.

Both Dutchtown and St. Amant will be serious championship contenders once the playoffs begin.

The Dutchtown girl’s program has risen to the top of the parish pecking order in 2017.

After finishing as runners-up to St. Amant in the district last year, the Lady Griffins showed their heart when the two teams met in a recent league contest.

Dutchtown fought back from a 3-1 second-half deficit to stun the defending champs, 4-3.

With a 4-1 win over East Ascension, the Lady Griffins are set up to win the district championship.

Riding a five-game winning streak and being led by talented players like Riley Ely and Delaney Zybko, Dutchtown looks to be dangerous come playoff time.

But though they came up short in their quest for the district title, you can’t discount St. Amant. With players like Gaffney and Mya Guillory, a lengthy postseason run looks likely.

It has been a great season for parish soccer. It could be an even better February.