Three weeks ago, when they staged a match for the Division I, District 4 championship, Catholic High edged archrival Baton Rouge High on a goal in stoppage game.
With the rematch carrying a heightened sense of awareness in Monday’s Division I state quarterfinal playoff game, the Bears were much more efficient earlier in the match to fend off the Bulldogs.
Senior Reece Gauldin’s goal from long distance unlocked a three-goal scoring spree midway through the first half to lead No. 2 Catholic past No. 7 Baton Rouge 3-0 at Dale Weiner Field.
“The difficult thing is I didn’t think we played our best tonight,” Catholic soccer coach JB Brunet said. “But goals change games, and we found a way. We scored three good goals pretty quick.”
Catholic (21-0-1) advances to the semifinals for the fourth time in five years, hosting No. 6 St. Paul’s, a 6-0 winner at No. 3 Denham Springs, later this week.
The Bears put Baton Rouge goalkeeper Andrew Araujo under intense pressure in the first 20 minutes. He responded with six of his seven saves, primarily on corner kicks that created plenty of traffic in the box.
Gauldin, with a gusty 15-mph wind at his back, broke the scoreless tie with a 35-yard attempt over the head of Araujo at the 21-minute mark.
“They pressure you really well,” said Baton Rouge soccer coach Richard Harsch, whose team finished 19-3-1. “The first one was a nice shot, there’s not much you can do about that. The other two they pressed us well and forced us into some mistakes. They put their chances away. Catholic’s really good and you can’t make those mistakes against them.”
Catholic extended its lead to 3-0 on consecutive goals from Mac Couhig and Jacques Breaux from close range.
Couhig regained possession of a ball that ricocheted off a defender and deposited a shot from 10 yards out at the 23-minute mark. Breaux followed two minutes later, collecting a through ball, maintaining his balance in the box and scored into the right side of the net.
The Bears outshot the Bulldogs 11-1 in the first half and 15-3 overall. Senior goalkeeper Chris Kennedy helped his team register their 17th shutout with saves of a Miles Wesley header in the 55th minute and a free kick from Austin Martinez in the 72nd minute.
“We couldn’t really get into the rhythm that we usually do,” Brunet said. “We found it at times, and we lost it at times. They’re a difficult team to play against with really good players, and they’re well coached. It was always going to be a difficult game.”