DENHAM SPRINGS - It felt more like a Friday night in October than it did a Friday night in January.
Complete with a band, a full stadium and a raucous student section, the Denham Springs soccer team found themselves with a heavy home field advantage.
“Our school responds really well, we’ve got the best fans there are,” Denham Springs coach Chris Thorne said. “They know when it’s a big game and they came out and supported us. They always have. This was no different.”
A last-minute goal from Blaze Restivo saved Denham Springs (17-7-1, 3-1-1) from a loss on senior night. However, the 1-1 draw with Zachary (15-6-4, 2-0-3) helped the Yellow Jackets finish with an identical record to Catholic High (3-1-1).
According to the district's bylaws the team with the higher power rating at the end of the regular season according to the LHSAA will be awarded the District 3-I championship with Denham Springs holding a narrow one spot lead over Catholic coming into this week. The Bears upset No. 2 Dutchtown on Thursday to conclude their regular season, while the Yellow Jackets travel to St. Thomas More on Tuesday.
For team captain Will Chevalier, the senior night was a chance to reflect on a decorated high school career, even if the result wasn’t what he and his teammates had hoped for.
“It’s a special night, just to be here with my teammates the past four years,” Chevalier said. “It’s not the result we wanted, but it was good to leave it out there with my brothers one last time at home.”
Center back Noah Hood stymied the Broncos’ most aggressive attack in the 20th minute when midfielder Chandler Hastings drew goalkeeper Tyler Burkett before Hood sent his shot into the lower corner away.
The Broncos were awarded a pair of free kicks in the 37th minute, resulting in a lone shot on goal that was batted away by Burkett. Clay Fontenot ended the attack with a clearance on a corner kick.
The bend-but-don’t-break defensive effort of the Yellow Jackets’ back line kept the match scoreless in the first half.
“We have a couple sophomores in Noah and Aristides (Chavez) on the back line,” Thorne said. “Corey Bush got injured midway through so that brought Aristides. Connelly (Herrin) and Luke (Restivo) I thought did a really good job of cleaning up. They got some opportunities, absolutely. They came up a little short, too.”
Zachary funneled its attack through midfielders Addison Gee and Jacob Agazzi, with Gee playing a focal point in the Broncos’ defensive midfield as well. Gee managed to keep the Broncos in attacking position for much of the match, and his efforts were rewarded when Agazzi beat Burkett on a penalty kick in the 55th minute, breaking the scoreless stalemate with only 25 minutes left of game time.
The Yellow Jackets avoided any lingering frustrations from the goal and kept Zachary from making any meaningful attempts at the goal for the rest of the match.
The solid defensive effort turned into quality looks on the attacking end. A 75th minute header by Restivo squared the match up at one.
It wasn’t the first time the Yellow Jackets erased a one-goal lead, according to Thorne.
“I think that’s just experience,” Thorne said. “We’ve been down one in a third of our games this season and we’ve had to come back. It’s just experience and being resilient.”