Playoff soccer takes center stage Thursday, with the Denham Springs High and Live Oak boys both taking aim at road victories.
The Yellow Jackets (19-6-4) head over to face Alexandria Senior High in a Division I regional match at 5 p.m., while the Eagles (9-9-9) face a stiff test when they play at No. 2 seed Beau Chene at 7 p.m. at Donald Gardner Stadium in Opelousas.
Denham advanced by rolling past H.L. Bourgeois 5-1 last week to punch a ticket to the second round for the third year in a row. The last time the Jackets didn’t advance was 2014 when they fell to Alexandria in the opening round, 2-1.
The following season was the only time DSHS has reached the quarterfinal round, the result of a 2-0 win over Hammond and a 2-1 triumph vs. Bonnabel.
ASH (17-3-4) is back in Division 1 after playing at the D-2 level the last two seasons, with a trip to the state semifinals in 2016 and a spot in the championship game last February, where the Trojans lost to St. Thomas More, 2-1.
After a first-round bye, Alexandria heads into its postseason debut with a huge head of steam. The Trojans haven’t lost since Nov. 27, a run of 14 games in a row without a loss – 13 wins and a tie. ASH tied for the District 1-1A championship with Byrd and claimed the head-to-head matchup with those Yellow Jackets, 2-1 on Dec. 4. Byrd is the No. 3 seed in the Division 1 playoff bracket.
DSHS and Alexandria met on Nov. 25 and ended in a scoreless tie. That was the cap to a strong weekend at the Rebel Cup in Pineville for the Jackets, who beat Airline, Comeaux and Pineville before the deadlock with the Trojans. Two days later, Pineville handed ASH its third and last loss of the season so far.
Live Oak faces a similarly tough test against Beau Chene (15-7-5), the runnerup in District 3-2. The Gators were a state semifinalist two years ago and lost in the second round last season.
The Eagles earned the shot against Beau Chene with a gritty road win at Ben Franklin last week, featuring two goals from Colin Schultz and a third from his twin brother Cole.
As is the case with DSHS and ASH, Live Oak and Beau Chene meet in a rematch: The Gators zapped the Eagles 4-1 on Jan. 5.
“We played Beau Chene earlier in the season and they beat us but I feel like we have learned a lot since that game,” Live Oak coach Zach Miller said.
“Our strength of schedule is serving us well. We are confident each time we step on the field and expect to win against opponent. We know it will be a very tough game against more playoff-tested opponent, but having made history with the first playoff win in program history, these boys have a little more swagger and are ready to show how much they have improved.”
Some added incentive figures to serve both the Eagles and Yellow Jackets well: Victories today give both teams an opportunity to host a state quarterfinal match.
For Live Oak, the next match would be vs. the winner of a match between Terrebonne and Neville. Denham’s potential quarterfinal would be against either Jesuit or District 3-1 rival Catholic High.
“The opportunity to host our first ever playoff game in Watson is a great motivator and I know these guys are going to fight with everything they have,” Miller said.
(Adam Henderson contributed to this report.)