On its quest for consecutive state championships, American Heritage anticipated obstacles along the way.
Before the season began, the Patriots lost nine players to an academy rule that forced top players to compete for the club year-round and forgo the high school season. Of late, players caught the flu.
Tuesday night, senior Julian Franco received two yellow cards, forcing his team to play a man down for the final 24 minutes.
Yet despite all that, senior Jamar Campion-Hinds’ header on senior Christopher Mealer’s throw-in in the 77th minute stood and pushed American Heritage past Merritt Island 2-1 in the Class 3A regional final at Patriot Field.
"I just thought that we can’t go into penalty shootouts, we’ve got to win this game trying to win the state title two years in a row," said Campion-Hinds, who will play collegiate ball at FIU. "It was just for me to work my hardest and do the best I could and jump as high as I could."
Senior Donald Tomlinson’s feed inside the box to Campion-Hinds in the 39th minute gave the Patriots (23-3-2) a 1-0 lead.
Merritt Island’s Ian Carey scored the equalizer in the 55th minute on a penalty kick. Junior Nicolance Regant had received a yellow card for pushing down a Mustang forward inside the box on a free kick.
During the first-half water break, the Patriots switched keepers when senior Djman Suarez got shaken up on a corner kick when he collided with two players. Suarez reentered the game a few minutes later.
American Heritage, which outshot Merritt Island (18-2-1) 12-8, will face either Palmetto or Immokalee Friday night in the state semifinal.
"We want it," coach Richard Jobson said. "These boys – the guys that stayed here – said ‘We’re going to win it,’ and that was their goal from the start of the season. You can’t stop them. When your heart’s there, everything’s willing."
CHRISTINA DE NICOLA
UNIVERSITY SCHOOL 8, WESTMINSTER ACADEMY 2
WP: Linette Flores. LP: Jensen Strandberg. Top performers: Linette Flores 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 3 runs. Jenna Ghibaudy 2-3, single, double, 3 RBI. Taylor White 2 singles
MONARCH 17, DEERFIELD BEACH 0 (4)
WP: Kaylyn Kirk. LP: Chursino. Top performers: Ashly Rohloff 2-3, 4 RBI. Stefany Collins 1-3, 4 RBI, HR. Kayla Wilson 2-4, 3 RBI. MON 1-0
LOURDES 8, FERGUSON 2
WP: Amanda Marrero. Top performers: Amanda Senra 2-3, 3 runs. Nina Cruz 3-3, 3 RBI. LOU 1-1
• Cardinal Gibbons 7, Monarch 0: Northecide won singles 8-3. Ernewein won singles 8-3. Gagne won singles 8-1. Gomez and Lang won doubles 8-6. Henriques and Kruger won doubles 8-6. Stark and Cole won doubles 8-4
• Kings Academy 5, Calvary Christian 2: Groeneveld won singles 8-1. Barrienton won singles 8-2. Swindle won singles 8-4. Groeneveld and Kahn won doubles 8-4. Evans and Gutierrez won doubles 8-4
• Cardinal Gibbons 5, Monarch 2: Landi won singles 9-7. Nguyer won singles 8-6. M. Norton won singles 8-3. Watkins won singles 8-0. Cumming won singles 8-3. DeAlmeida and Nguyer won doubles 8-4. Norton and Landi won doubles 8-4. Mantilla and McCallum won doubles 8-3