DENHAM SPRINGS – It was a gamble Denham Springs boys soccer coach Chris Thorne was willing to take.
With his Yellow Jackets sitting at ninth in the Division I power ratings entering the week, Thorne was aware of the ramifications what another victory would have on his team, both psychologically and from a seedings standpoint in the state playoffs.
Denham Springs was scheduled to host defending Division II state champion Holy Cross in the regular-season finale, but Thorne received word that the Tigers’ preference was to cancel the game.
“I kind of forced the issue,” Thorne said. “I’m sure I didn’t make many friends over there.”
The game went on as planned and Denham Springs rolled to an impressive 4-0 victory, a result that not only dissolved the bad taste of a two-game losing streak but wound up boosting the Yellow Jackets’ final power rating.
By virtue of its final win Denham Springs (19-4-1) vaulted to the No. 5 seed in Division I and came away with a first-round bye. They host No. 12 Captain Shreve in second round action at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Moreover, the Yellow Jackets find themselves on the same side of the bracket with top-seeded St. Paul’s (16-0-3), fourth-seeded St. Amant (18-3-1) and eight-seeded Catholic High (12-4-3).
“That’s the side of the bracket that I wanted to be on,” Thorne said. “I wanted to win the game and be fifth. I knew going in if we won, we would be fifth and if we lost, we would be ninth. I was fine with either one of those.
“Now if we had tied or not played,” Thorne said, “we would have been seventh or eighth, and on the other side that’s deadly with Dutchtown, Lafayette, Jesuit and Northshore. That’s going to be a battle.”
Denham Springs is hoping to parlay its first-round bye into second-round success, an opportunity the Yellow Jackets were unable to capitalize on several years ago.
“The only other time we had a bye, we lost,” Thorne said. “Grace King came in and they were prepared, and we weren’t. Going into that bye, we didn’t have a game like we did this week and were rusty. The Holy Cross game gave us a nice tune-up where it’s not so long. The playoffs are a new season.”
Denham Springs will get a third look this season at Captain Shreve (14-10-1), 1-0 winner over Acadiana. The Yellow Jackets have twice defeated the Gators 3-1 and 2-1 during the regular season.
Denham Springs takes a renewed sense of optimism into the postseason following last week's win over Holy Cross. The complete-game victory helped atone for back-to-back losses to Northshore and Catholic High, the latter coming 3-1 in the District 3-I championship match.
“The worst thing we wanted to do was go into the playoffs with a loss or three losses in a row,” Thorne said. “It was huge to build that confidence and enjoy the game again.
“I was able to get everyone in, including some junior varsity guys,” Thorne said. “It was just a good night all the way around. You need those coming off those two physical losses, especially the emotional one to Catholic and not being able to meet that goal that we had. It was a nice reset.”
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