American Heritage hoped to add another milestone to its rich boys’ soccer tradition Saturday morning.
But wasted early opportunities and two quick goals surrendered within a four-minute span early in the second half doomed the Patriots in a 2-0 defeat against Ponte Vedra in the Class 3A state championship match at Melbourne High.
American Heritage (23-4-2) came up short in its bid to win back-to-back state titles for the third time in the program’s history. The Patriots were also seeking their sixth state championship overall, which would have given them the most for any Broward County school.
Ponte Vedra (24-3-4) won its first state championship.
“When we gave up the first goal, our coaches told us to keep our heads up,” senior forward Jamar Campion-Hinds said. “We didn’t fight hard enough, and they took control of the game.”
Ponte Vedra’s quick scoring barrage in the second half was aided in the 51st minute when American Heritage junior midfielder Gabriel Pedraza received a second yellow card, ejecting him from the game and forcing the Patriots to play short-handed for the remainder of the match.
A minute later, Sharks senior Michael Parado stuck out his right foot and side-tapped the ball past American Heritage goalkeeper DJman Suarez on a perfectly placed long cross from junior forward Corey Johnson for a 1-0 edge.
With 24:19 remaining, Ponte Vedra added another tally when senior midfielder Ben Fredericks controlled a corner-kick feed by senior Michael Lee and quickly fired a shot with his left foot past Suarez. On the play, another Sharks forward made an attempt to head the ball but missed, drawing the attention of the defense before Fredericks capitalized.
“After our midfielder got the second yellow card, I think everyone dropped their heads,” Vinson said.
Before Ponte Vedra took control of the match, American Heritage spent the first half controlling most of the play yet was unable to score.
The best chance came with 46 seconds remaining in the half when Ponte Vedra goalkeeper Kevin Shields fouled Heritage senior Donald Tomlinson inside the goal area, resulting in a penalty kick.
Junior Samuel Vinson took the shot but fired it high and wide to the right, keeping the game scoreless.
The Patriots also had two great chances in the first 10 minutes of the match.
Senior forward Jamar Campion-Hinds broke through a sprint past the defense and fired a shot that rolled a few feet wide of the goal in the fifth minute.
Four minutes later, Vinson headed a ball on target off a long throw-in by senior Christopher Mealer. But Shields made one of his nine saves.
Jobson praised his team, which loses seven seniors overall, for reaching the state final for the eighth time in the program’s history despite some obstacles to begin the season.
American Heritage lost six starters from last year’s state championship team that chose to play for the local U.S. Soccer academies following the institution of its rule this season requiring players to participate in a 10-month uninterrupted training schedule.
“If we had scored early, it probably would have been a much different outcome, so I’m disappointed,” Jobson said. “But nobody expected us to get this far with a young team, and these boys overachieved. One thing I can guarantee is that we will be coming back next year. We’ll work hard and we’ll get better.”