DENHAM SPRINGS -- Most of the suspense disappeared early Friday when Denham Springs High took on Ponchatoula in a Division I playoff opener, as the Yellow Jackets scored almost at will in a 7-2 rout.
Kyle Alain and Drew Finley each scored two goals as No. 9-seeded DSHS improved to 13-5-3 and moved on to face No. 8-seed St. Amant in the second round next week.
Denham scored three times in the first 28 minutes and Finley said that jumping out to a big lead was important.
“We knew that keeping them in check was key and when we shut them down, we just started scoring,” Finley said.
Ponchatoula tried to gain control of the match early, getting two good looks in the first 6 minutes. The first shot was wide right of the net, and while the second was buried in the back of the net by Mario Torres, the Green Wave was called offside and the goal was disallowed.
Denham took advantage, driving quickly down the field and getting a goal straight away from Uziel Aguliar in the 7th minute to make the score 1-0.
A little over15 minutes later, Seth Bridges put a corner kick in front of the net that was gathered by Finley and buried into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
The Jackets kept the pressure on, stealing away the ball at midfield a minute later and scoring on a rush, with Alain taking an assist from William Chevalier and beating the Green Wave goalie for a 3-0 lead.
“This win gave us a big boost, because we have had a lot of injuries in the last two games,” Alain said. “We just came off two losses in a row, so scoring this many goals and winning gave us a lot of morale.”
Denham coach Chris Thorne said his team was playing with a purpose after ending the regular season with two straight defeats.
“We haven’t lost two games in a row here in a long time so, regardless of the opponent, they knew they had to be the hardest working team on the field,” he said.
Two saves by DSHS goalie Tyler Medina in the final few minutes of the half kept the Green Wave scoreless going into intermission.
Things got chippy in the second half, as DSHS scored three goals in the first 16 minutes to go up 6-0. Alain, Bridges and Finley all put the ball in the net, and Ponchatoula began fouling persistently, drawing three yellow cards in the final 25 minutes of the match.
Ponchatoula’s Christina Reid tried to goad Denham’s Trevor Jenkins into a confrontation, but Jenkins kept his cool, although both players drew attention from the referee, who stepped in before things could escalate.
“Coach told us at halftime that that happens when teams get down a few goals,” Finley said. “They will start to come at you and at that point, you just have to keep your composure, do what you can and keep possession.”
Thorne said he did the best he could to keep his team under control in the second half.
“I hard to control the emotions because it’s (teenagers) and it’s lose and you go home,” he said.
Denham’s last goal of the night may have been the most impressive, as Jose Ortega took a ball up the middle on his own, juked past the Ponchatoula goalie and scored to give Denham a 7-2 lead.
The Wave scored two goals in a 5-minute span earlier in the half to cut the lead to 6-2, but the advantage was too much to overcome.
Denham will face a St. Amant team that the Yellow Jackets lost to 2-0 in the regular season last year, a game not forgotten by any of the players or coaches.
“It’s definitely going to be the most physical team we have played, but I think we can hold up against them,” Alain said.
Thorne said playing the Gators in the second round is something to look forward to.
“We are excited,” he said. “We went there last year and suffered two hard injuries (during the game) and it’s always a challenging place to play, but we are looking forward to the opportunity to move on.”
DSHS 7, PONCHATOULA 2
Goals -- Ponchatoula: Mario Torres 1, Shawn LaGroue 1; DSHS: Andrew Finley 2, Kyle Alain 2, Seth Bridges 1, Uziel Aguilar 1, Jose Ortega 1. Goalkeepers -- Ponchatoula: 3 saves; DSHS: Tyler Medina (3 saves). Records: Ponchatoula 14-8, DSHS 13-5-3.