Live Oak boys soccer vs. Helen Cox: LOHS' Singh Darshandeep

Singh Darshandeep (13) of Live Oak tries to beat a Helen Cox defender into the box.

The road in the Division II state playoffs doesn't get any easier for Live Oak.

As a reward for last Saturday’s emotional 1-0 victory over Helen Cox - the first home playoff game in program history - the No. 16 Eagles are tasked with traveling to New Orleans to play defending state champion and top-seeded Holy Cross.

The Tigers enter the playoffs with a 19-4-3 record, having played against 21 teams that made it to the postseason across all four divisions.

“It’s difficult,” Live Oak coach Zach Miller said. “It’s never an easy task to face a team that defends so well. They had at one point seven shutouts in a row, have one of the better goalkeepers in the state and a solid defense in front of him. They always have, that’s kind of a year-in, year-out thing with Holy Cross. There’s a reason they’re No. 1 and the defending state champs.”

Live Oak boys soccer vs. Helen Cox: Spencer Verrett

Live Oak's Spencer Verrett (22) tries to head the ball into the goal on a throw in.

Holy Cross has allowed only 15 goals the entire season, four of which came in a regular-season finale 4-0 loss at Denham Springs, good enough for a .580 goal per game average.

After a slow start to the season offensively against mostly Division I opponents, the Tigers found their scoring stroke and totaled 73 goals, averaging 2.83 a match.

What appears to be a daunting task, Live Oak may be equipped to handle, having allowed 1.66 goals per match. The Eagles have allowed more than one goal just twice in their past 11 matches and registered six shutouts – including Saturday’s 1-0 playoff victory.

Goalkeepers Garret Farris has a team-high 135 saves and seven shutouts, while reserve Aidan Patterson has 31 saves and two shutouts.

“We seem to be doing a pretty good job in the last month or so of creating scoring opportunities,” Miller said. “We’ve made that a focal point. But we need to take advantage of those and be able to put them away when you do get those golden opportunities.”

For that to take place Live Oak realizes the importance of executing at its best. All season long Miller and the coaching staff have lamented their team’s tendency to fall out of rhythm or play a game in spurts, leading to the formation of a late-season rallying cry: MTG 80, short for “manage the game for 80 minutes”.

The quartet of Jared Plaisance, Jackson Bryant, Darshansheep Singh and Jack Earle have combined for 33 goals and 18 assists. The Eagles have had 10 different goal scorers this season.

“We just have to play well,” Miller said. “We have to execute. We have to go into that game mentally ready, more than anything. Physically we’re as good as we’ve been all year, we have to not let the moment be too big for us, which remains to be seen. We’ve been to this stage of the playoffs before. We were here last year, and I thought we played very well and lost a short period of time (4-1 at Beau Chene) and it got away from us.”

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