By Alonso Tacanga / Special Contributor
GEORGETOWN — Defense, tenacity, capitalizing on opportunities and, yes, some good fortune led Jesuit all the way to the Class 6A state championship game on Saturday night against Arlington Sam Houston.
On the biggest stage of all and with the title of best team in the state on the line, the Rangers won 2-1 in overtime, using the same unconventional style that got them there.
“I don’t think we were the better team today, but we had a chance to win and we took it,” Jesuit head coach Charles DeLong said. “It’s been like that all year.”
Similar to multiple playoff games during their historic run, the Rangers (22-3-1) found themselves in a tie game in overtime, with their rivals controlling possession and on the attack.
And just like in many of those games, all it took was one play for Jesuit to punish its adversaries. Christian Lerma found a loose ball inside the goal area eight minutes into the first overtime period and put it in the net to give his team the lead for good.
“Luckily for me it fell right in front of me, and I just tapped it in,” Lerma said.
But on a night where Lerma was the hero with the game-winner, everyone agreed the star of the night was Jesuit goalkeeper Luke Ostrander, who was later named game MVP.
The senior, who had not allowed a goal in four consecutive playoff games, had nine saves as Sam Houston took aim at his goal 21 times.
“Honestly I only block 10 percent of the shots. [My defense does] 90 percent of the work,” Ostrander said. “I couldn’t have done this season without them, so I want to thank them.”
After Jesuit midfielder Tommy Flaim nailed a beautifully placed free kick from 33 yards out in the eighth minute of the first half, the Rangers were ready to defend the advantage for the next 72 minutes of the game, a tactic that’s usually worked wonders.
But the Texans (22-3-2) found the equalizer in the 57th minute on a free kick that appeared to hit a player in the box, throwing off Ostrander and allowing the ball to get past him.
The Rangers didn’t hang their heads, however. They stuck to their game and — even as the Texans controlled possession — they had two clear chances to finish the game before heading to overtime, where they finally found the back of the net again.
“If you’re going to play this style, you have to have a great goalkeeper,” DeLong said. “You have to have great center backs, you have to have everybody buying in and being comfortable playing defense, knowing that the other team has the ball and it could score at any moment, but having the confidence that they won’t.”
It might not be the most traditional way, but Jesuit showed it works by earning its second UIL state title in program history — the other coming in 2010.
“I’m sure there’s eight teams in Dallas that will say, ‘we’re better than them, we outplayed them.’ And they’re probably right,” DeLong said. “But somehow we’re here and we won, so I’m happy.”