They battled their hearts out.
But in the end, playing a man short in the second half and perhaps not getting all the calls to go the Jaguars’ way meant for a frustrating Saturday afternoon for the Pembroke Pines Charter boys’ soccer team.
In about as wild and high-scoring soccer game as you’ll ever see, Pines Charter, playing in its first state-title game, came up on the short end of a 5-4 final against Tampa Jesuit in the Class 5A championship game at Spec Martin Stadium.
After trailing 2-1 at the break, the Jaguars battled back twice in the second half to tie the score and twice they scored goals despite being a man short following the ejection of Armando Sanchez when he picked up a second yellow card (which means a blue-card ejection) at the 32:54 mark of the second half.
The blue carding of Sanchez was only the tip of the iceberg as the combination of a physical contest with a lot of jawing on each side along with a tightly called game by the center referee made for a slew of yellow cards (nine in all) and two ejections. Pines Charter coach Nicholas Lue Young was red carded and ejected at the 29:11 mark of the second half.
“The kids did a great job of fighting back and showing their resiliency out there today,” Lue Young said after the game when he was allowed to come back on the field. “They came back three different times coming from a goal down including twice a man down, so I’m very proud of that. It’s just unlucky it had to come down to refereeing decisions in a regards to a big game like this in a state final.”
Lue Young wasn’t thrilled about many calls, including Sanchez’s second yellow, but what really set him off was a Jesuit goal by Zachary Board at that 29:11 mark when it appeared Board might have been offsides.
“The linesman over here — the ball was played over the top, number seven [Board] was in an offside position and he missed it, I believe,” said Lue Young, who was initially yellow carded for voicing his displeasure and seconds later red carded when he didn’t stop. “The linesman did not make a single call all game, 80 minutes, he did not make a call.”
Calls or no calls, the Jaguars (18-3-2) were led by senior forward Ashton Cooper, who scored a first half goal and then converted a penalty kick to tie the score at 2 with 33:08 left.
Even after Board put the Tigers (24-3-2), who won their seventh state title in program history but first since 2001, ahead 3-2, Nick Roman scored less than a minute later tying the score at 3.
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A wild eight minute sequence that included four goals and two ejections was completed at the 25:18 mark when Jesuit’s Lucas Gobea scored giving the Tigers the lead for good. Even after Jesuit scored to make it 5-3 with 15:25 left, Julian Garcia-Rudnik got to a loose ball in front of the net and popped it in with 8:47 left to cut the deficit to one.
“It was a frustrating day for sure,” said Cooper, who became the program’s all-time leading scorer when the two goals put him at 91. “We definitely felt like we weren’t getting the calls and maybe they [Jesuit] were, but at the end of the day, they put five on us and we only got four and, unfortunately, that’s how it works. It was a historic season for this program, but it’s bittersweet because it’s not the ending we wanted. But we fought and I’m proud of all my teammates.”