WATSON -- Live Oak boy’ coach Zach Miller decided he had seen enough.
After eight straight games without a win, Miller threw conventional wisdom aside in the Eagles’ Division II, District 4-opening clash with Central on Wednesday, opting to start members of the junior varsity squad instead of going with the normal lineup.
The message was heard loud and clear.
Three players scored for Live Oak after halftime as the Eagles put an end to their frustrating winless streak with an uplifting 4-0 victory.
It was the first win for Live Oak (7-9-4, 1-0) since a Dec. 16 showdown against University High, putting to rest a wearisome 0-6-2 stretch. The four goals scored matched a season-high for the Eagles, who were held to one goal or less in six of the past eight games.
Miller’s decision to go with his underclassmen at the start --as the normal starters watched helplessly from the sidelines -- sure seemed to pay off.
“Kind of a wake-up call I guess you could say,” Miller said. “We’ve had a bad run of results after the University High game. We were buzzing after that win, but we couldn’t get the results after that.
“I’m not a screamer or a throwing-the-tables kind of guy. I’m not going to fake it like that. They’d see right through it. So I thought let’s try something different.”
The Eagles got some help from the opponent in the 15th minute, when a Central defender accidentally kicked the ball into his own goal to give Live Oak a 1-0 lead it’d take into the break.
But that fortunate bounce wasn’t enough to satisfy Miller, and he let his team know it.
Once again, the message was received.
“It took them awhile (Wednesday), but they finally got it clicking,” Miller said.
After badly misfiring on a breakaway opportunity moments before, junior Chad Klug redeemed himself with a goal midway through the second half, firing one past Central keeper Dylan Holmes.
Brandon Gonzalez, a reserve who doubles on the JV squad, added to the Eagles’ lead 2 minutes later when he headed in a perfect cross pass from Brayden Betz, one of the seniors on the bench to start.
Fellow senior Landon Mears, another player who was left out of the starting lineup, completed Live Oak’s bounce-back performance by banging in a goal off the top crossbar.
Live Oak finished with 14 shots, with half of those on target. The Wildcats (1-10, 0-1), who are in the midst of a tough rebuilding season, could only get off one shot in the entire game, and they didn’t have any during the final 69 minutes.
The rejuvenated Eagles now get a 10-day respite from district 4 action but will have three non-district matches in between, starting with a trip to Lutcher at 1 p.m. Saturday. Live Oak will also face Lakeshore and Denham Springs High before resuming district play against Broadmoor on Jan. 21.
Klug just hopes the momentum from Wednesday’s breakthrough will carry over into the Eagles’ upcoming matches.
“Coach is trying to make us eager to want to play,” Klug said. “That was the perfect wake-up call. This got everybody fired up, especially after the last few games. We were starting to get down on each other. This helped us get closer and lift each other up.”
LIVE OAK 4, CENTRAL 0
Goals -- Live Oak: Chad Klug 1, Collin Schultz 1, Landon Mears 1; Central: None. Goalkeepers -- Live Oak: Evan Duran (1 save); Central: Dylan Holmes (3 saves). Shots/shots on goal -- Live Oak: 14/7; Central: 1/1. Records: Live Oak 7-9-4, 1-0 Division II, District 4; Central 1-10, 0-1.