COVINGTON — The St. Paul’s School boys soccer team has been defying expectations all season, and the Wolves don’t intend to stop now.
When fifth-seeded St. Paul’s clashes with No. 2 seed Jesuit at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Division I state championship match at Tad Gormley Stadium, the Wolves will be seeking to upset their third straight higher-seeded opponent.
St. Paul’s blanked No. 4 seed Acadiana, 2-0, in the quarterfinals, then toppled top-seeded Lafayette, 1-0, in the semis last weekend.
Oh yeah, and the Wolves are also hungry to avenge their losses to Jesuit in the finals the past two years.
St. Paul’s coach Sean Moser said despite his program’s steady blossoming into a state power in recent years, the Wolves understand many continue to count them out of serious title consideration. But he added his players continue to simply shrug off such low expectations.
“As far as seedings go, we’re a five, they’re a two,” Moser said. “As far as mentality goes, Jesuit has been there, but we’ve been kind of the upstart.
“I don’t think people gave us much of a chance to win our district, and we went undefeated.Not many people said we’d make it to the finals, but we did. We beat the No. 4 and No. 1 seeds. So the underdog role is fine with us.”
That goes for the Wolves themselves, too.
“I guess we’re the underdogs, just like normal,” senior captain and forward Zach Richard said.
“But we’re enjoying going out and showing everyone up. Ranking doesn’t mean anything. It’s not a good judge of a team’s potential.”
Added midfielder and senior captain Daniel Garraway about the Wolves’ upstart status: “We’re fine with it. We’ve been working hard this whole season, especially since the quarterfinals.”
The Wolves’ postseason run has been fueled by a defense that hasn’t given up a goal in its four playoff games. The St. Paul’s backfield will be facing a quick, focused Jesuit attack that led to an emotional win over archrival and No. 3 seed Brother Martin in the semifinals.
“(The Blue Jays) are a very solid, deep team,” Moser said. “They’ve been able to substitute six or seven players a game to keep that level high. They’re a quick counter team, and they have a lot of speed up top and in the midfield.”
Nevertheless, Moser added, “I see us as two pretty evenly matched teams.”
“Jesuit has been playing really good in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s going to be a close game. Whoever wants the win more will win.”
Jesuit coach Hubie Collins said according to the rumors he’s heard around the Big Easy, the Wolves are the favorites, so predictions might be in the eye of the beholder.
“The word on the street down here is that St. Paul’s thinks they’ve the favorites,” Collins said with a chuckle. “I guess it depends on who you’re hearing it from and what you’re reading.”
Collins said since the teams haven’t played each other yet this year, neither club knows exactly what to expect. Each team did scout the other in the semifinals.
“It should make the game more interesting, because the kids will be feeling each other out on the field the first 10 minutes,” he said.
Nevertheless, the Blue Jays’ coach said his club should be prepared to deal with whatever is throw at them Saturday.
“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Collins said. “We’re really focused, really concentrated. Our players are fiercely determined, and we’re looking forward to the challenge tonight (Saturday).
The Wolves feel the same way.
“We’ve really been training all season for this,” Richard said. “We’ve been practicing on the weekends, and we’ve had a lot of conditioning. We’ve really come along this year, and we’re peaking right now.”