Newman High School is back in the boys state soccer finals for the 11th time in 21 seasons. Episcopal is making its first finals appearance.
Both teams have been dominant in the playoffs. Top-seeded Newman has won four matches by a 25-3 margin, while second-seeded Episcopal has a 20-2 scoring advantage in the postseason.
Will Newman, a veteran team with six senior starters, prevail again?
Or will Episcopal, which starts 10 juniors, take the next step and win the first boys soccer title for Baton Rouge since 2000?
Those questions will be answered when Newman (19-1-3) meets Episcopal (21-6-1) for the Division III boys title at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans. The contest helps kick off the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s weekend of soccer finals.
“Nine years ago, when I took over as coach at Episcopal, we began talking about winning a state championship,” Knights coach Chris Stewart said. “We’ve been in the semifinals three of the last six years. We took that next step by reaching the finals. We’re not satisfied. We want to be the first team at Episcopal to win state and hold that trophy. We know we’re going to have to play our best to do that.”
Newman has won seven state titles (1993, ’95, ’99, ’01, ’05, ’09, ’10) and finished as runner-up four times (1980, ’96, ’98, ’08).
The last time the two schools met, Episcopal defeated Newman 1-0 in the 2011 quarterfinals. Both the Knights and Greenies finished this season strong and are on winning streaks of 15 and 12 games, respectively.
“We’re happy to be back in the finals,” Newman sixth-year coach Matt Jacques said. “This was one of our goals. We do have a good tradition here. This team has been great, and they’ve really put in the effort to get better. We like to knock the ball around and put together combination plays. We’re expecting a great match.”
Sophomore midfielder Julian Sutton scored the winning goal as Newman beat University 2-1 in the semifinals. Senior forward David Harkins scored the other goal. Harkins (13 goals) and defender Miles Meckstroth played on the 2010 state championship team. Keeper David Terral, defender McCord Frampton, a team captain, Andrew Stall (18 goals) and Robert Poche (17 goals) are other players to watch for Newman.
“The Newman players are very technical and physical,” Stewart said. “They’re very crafty on how to get open. They have good team play. We’ll have to defend well and limit our mistakes. When we get the chance, we’ve got to capitalize on offense.”
“Episcopal has a talented group and they’re going to be physical,” Jacques said. “They have good size. Episcopal does a good job on corner kicks and throws. We’ve done a good job this season of defending throws and corner kicks.”
Both defenses have 13 shutouts on the season. Newman has allowed just 12 goals on the season and EHS has allowed 25. Back four defensive starters for Episcopal include juniors Brannon Bienasz, Carter James, Polk Kellam and Ty Williams. Erol Knaus is the EHS keeper.
“I think it’s going to be a good game,” EHS senior co-captain Williams James said. “I think it will come down to which defense makes the first mistake and offense capitalizes on it. I think it’ll be a close 1-0, 2-1 type game.”
“I basically want to win state for William James as it’s his last year and he’s been a great leader,” said junior forward Adam Clausen, who leads EHS with 25 goals and 10 assists. “It would be a huge statement for the school.”