NEW ORLEANS — Newman came in with experience and a roster of seniors that were around three years ago when the school won its last boys soccer state title.
The New Orleans-based Greenies entered Friday night’s Louisiana High School Athletic Association Division III boys soccer final at Tad Gormley Stadium with seven titles.
Episcopal came in with youth and a squad one year removed from a losing record. And the Knights won 2-1 in overtime, claiming their first boys soccer in school history.
Adam Clausen broke open a tie match in overtime by scoring on a shot which fell off the hands of Newman goalie David Terral. The victory also gave Baton Rouge a boys soccer champion for the first time since 2000.
“I cut into the middle, looked up and I just hit it,” said the 6-foot-4 Clausen, who earned Player of the Game honors. “At first, I thought it was not going to go in. Then I saw it go in the net and I started screaming.”
So did his teammates.
Coupled with Cody Mitchell’s score in the seventh minute, Episcopal was able to upset the top-seeded Greenies, ending their aspirations for an eighth state title.
“We kind of had a feeling the game was going to come down to who made the last mistake,” Newman coach Matt Jacques said. “And unfortunately, we just made a little bit too many.”
Newman’s season ends at 21-7-1. Episcopal (22-6-1), meanwhile, competed its transformation from an eight-win squad the season before to the state’s best in Division III boys soccer.
“Last year, we knew we were going to be alright, so we scheduled the hardest schedule,” said Mitchell, whose goal in the first half gave him a team-high 26 this season. “We came out prepared for next year and here we are, start champions.
On Friday, it wasn’t always pretty for the Knights.
After Mitchell’s goal, Newman started to control the middle of the field with its crafty passing. But Episcopal outworked the Greenies for balls, and was the more physical team. Once Newman approached Episcopal’s box, the Knight defense tightened, which helped goalie Erol Knaus escape scoring situations with just one blemish: In the 59th minute, Newman’s Allen Milani sliced a kick past him from outside the box to tie the match.
“We got a lot of guys with grit,” Knights coach Chris Stewart said. “It may not be pretty, but we do the little extra work to get the ball to our players and defend well.”
It proved to be a championship combination this season, one which Mitchell believes will continue. Perhaps mirroring the soccer success Newman has enjoyed.
“This is just the beginning,” said Mitchell, one of 10 juniors in the starting lineup. “Just the beginning of a brand new streak.”
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