(COVINGTON, La.) — It only took 15 minutes for senior James Bradford to find himself sitting on three goals in what became a 6-0 slaughter of district rival Mandeville. This was one of the most heavily anticipated matches of the year, garnering the attention of soccer fans statewide because of some off field drama.
In the days leading up to the match, coaches, former players, and fans were commenting on the popular online Louisiana soccer forum “LAprepSoccer.net.” Two of the Mandeville coaches had been commenting on a thread about the game and made comments that caught the attention of the soccer community. Mandeville’s head coach, Jack Pratt, commented on the forum and predicted that the Skippers would beat the Wolves in the district tie.
“We respect every team but we do not fear anyone,” wrote Pratt. The Mandeville coach went on to predict a “chippy” and physical match, a multitude of goals and cards from each team, and a 3-2 scoreline in favor of Mandeville High School.
Following Pratt’s statement, there was an outcry from members of LAprep Soccer for Coach Sean Moser to respond to Pratt’s prediction of the game. Moser opted not to make his own prediction, but wrote, “1) it serves no purpose in the run up 2) the way it sits right now MHS could be a quarter final opponent.”
After the game, Moser said, “the coach had posted some stuff: they’re not intimidated and that they were going to beat us. After the game our joke was: how are you going to score three goals against us if you only have one shot? So I think we were confident going in, we were focused going in, and we didn’t let the smack talk affect us.”
As for Coach Pratt’s predictions, the game was not a physical one nor many cards, but he was correct in forecasting a goal fest. Two minutes into the first half, James Bradford scored a free kick from the unlikeliest of places. The St. Paul’s forward took a free kick from the five yard line out near the corner flag. What most expected to be a looping ball into the crowd of players ended up being a low cross that curled its way through the Mandeville defense and into the net. After brilliant build up play, Bradford scored again to finish off a classy give-and-go with senior midfielder Ben Schwing. In the 15th minute, St. Paul’s was awarded a penalty following a careless lunge from a Mandeville player that threw Schwing to the turf. Bradford initially had his penalty saved, but the St. Paul’s number seven rounded off his hat trick by tapping in the rebound.
Mandeville came close to scoring but were denied by a goal line save from senior center-back Lucas Isolani. Right before halftime, the Wolves created an insurmountable lead through another worldie by Schwing. Senior defender Raleigh Martin began the sequence with a long throw into the opposition box and the majority of the Mandeville squad was defending the set piece. The Skippers managed to clear the long throw to the top of the box, but found Schwing in acres of space facing the goal. The senior captain collected the ball off his chest and fired a 27-yard-volley into the bottom right corner of the Mandeville goal.
From there, it was a matter of keeping composed and seeing out the win for the Wolves. If the result was not already beyond doubt, St. Paul’s increased their advantage to 6-0 after second half goals from Schwing and junior winger Michael Slimming. The sixth goal by Slimming was buried in the roof of the net and it came after more stimulating interplay and another assist for Schwing.
From the offing, the Wolves seemed unfazed by what had been said before the match. Any hopes of an upset for Mandeville High School were quickly dissipated by the onslaught at the hands of the Wolves. The St. Paul’s faithful were treated to a relentless performance that saw Bradford pick up a hat trick and two assists and Schwing a goal and two assists. Following a string of high scoring results in district play, this particular game was distinguished by the overall precision and technical excellence by the players. For a majority of the game the Mandeville players looked out classed and constantly a stride behind the Wolves, who rarely gave away the ball on the night.
“I thought we played really well. We’ve raised our game since December. We didn’t really play well against Jesuit. We had a few good practices, went to Tampa and played well, and we’ve been rolling ever since,” said Moser following the match. When asked about how he felt Pratt’s statements impacted the team, Moser said, “right before the Northshore game I told them: ‘listen, we have two decent games this week, let’s take care of our business and keep our mouths shut.'”