Grace King knocks off Crusaders

When Grace King coach Raul Hernandez asked Jeremy Brown last month to play soccer, the affable senior agreed.

But first, Brown had to get permission from his grandmother. She said yes.

So it was fitting Tuesday evening that she watched her grandson spoil nationally ranked Brother Martin’s Class 5A state title hopes during a quarterfinals victory decided on golden goals.

Brown watched his teammates make four golden goals while he stopped two kicks to make eighth-seeded Grace King the first team this season to beat top-seeded Brother Martin.

“She’s here, watching around somewhere in the shadows,” Brown, his braces exposed, his eyes watery, said of his grandmother. “I’m almost to the point of tears, how happy I am for her, just to watch me do that.”

Grace King moves on to play the winner of fifth-seeded Lafayette and fourth-seeded Acadiana in the 5A semifinals, one win from its first state title match. Meanwhile, Brother Martin’s season ends at 20-1. The Crusaders won are two-time state champions (2000-01) and 2013 state semifinalists and entered Tuesday ranked fourth in the nation in the latest high school poll by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

“All those things are great accomplishments,” Brother Martin coach Stephen McAnespie said, “but at the end of the day, there’s a big ‘but.’ It leaves you with a sour taste.

“All of those things were nice, but now, the (championship), that’s the thing that we have to aspire to. Those things come hand in hand, but at the end, you need that little icing on the cake, and we never got it.”

Thanks to Brown.

His heroics ended 110 minutes of soccer, which included regulation, two overtimes, two sudden-death periods and finally, golden goals.

Halco Hajdarevic scored Grace King’s final goal, placing the Fighting Irish one save away from their first trip to the soccer semifinals.

That’s where the 5-foot-6 Brown, whose favorite sport is ice hockey, said he relied on scouting information, guessing that Brother Martin’s Mark Mangum would shoot middle.

“But at the end, it’s still 50/50. However, he sees it,” said Hernandez, his coach.

Brown stayed middle, cradling Mangum’s shot, igniting an eruption at Brother Martin’s Farley Field by the visiting Grace King student body, unaccustomed to celebrating wins in nearly every sport.

“It’s new history for Grace King,” Hajdarevic said. “I dreamed it (all) in my dreams. I was a little bit scared, but we did it.”

Grace King won by playing aggressively on offense without selling out and placing its defense in uncomfortable positions. Not being anxious, playing with composure, despite being overmatched by Brother Martin’s many accolades.

When Brother Martin was in scoring position, Brown was also there, contesting balls high in the air, soaring above everyone, or beating Cristian Canales and Peter Brooks to balls. Mangum also took several headers near the goal, all sailing high or stopped by Brown.

“I definitely got kicked in the ribs one or two times,” Brown said. “It wasn’t fun, but you just have to keep battling through all the adversity that gets thrown at you.”

Tuesday proved to be part of a busy week for Brown, who is also a third baseman on King’s baseball team. The Fighting Irish opens it baseball season against John Curtis on Friday.