Sixty-three lousy seconds.
That’s all that separated the Scheck Hillel Community School Hurricanes boys’ soccer team from an amazing comeback victory and return trip to the state championship game.
The small Jewish school from North Miami Beach — which lost 1-0 to Tampa Prep in last year’s title game and had the stands full of virtually the entire student body that had the day off from school screaming in anticipation of victory — watched as Orlando First Academy tied the score with 1:03 left in regulation.
The Royals then scored the winning goal 4:42 into the first overtime to shock the Hurricanes and their loyal following 4-3 in a Class 1A state semifinal game at Eastern Florida State College.
First Academy (22-0-1), competing in the state final four for the first time, moves on to face Lake Worth Trinity Christian in the 1A state title game Thursday at 3 p.m.
Making it even more painful was that the Hurricanes (20-3-0) had put on a miraculous comeback after virtually being given up for dead at halftime.
Thanks to a poor first half, Hillel found itself in big trouble as it trailed 2-0 at the break. But led by junior forward Albert Dichy, Hillel launched a furious comeback and scored three unanswered goals, two by Dichy including what he thought was the winner off his right foot with 14:44 left to make it 3-2.
“It was a beautiful pass by Julian [Ribak],” Dichy said. “I saw the keeper come out and overcommit and knew I had it at that point. It was a beautiful play and a great sensation because I thought that had put us in the championship game.”
But as the minutes drained away and Hillel desperately tried to fend off a furious First Academy push, Hurricane players started cramping up. That caused clock stoppage.
The stoppage allowed the Royals to take a free kick from 35 yards out on the right side and time to set up a play. It worked.
First Academy’s Alex Baret, who scored twice in the first half to stake his team to the 2-0 lead, lined up for the kick and dumped it down in front of the net into a massive scrum of players.
Hillel keeper Alan Landau disappeared into the scrum, but First Academy’s Clayton Muehlstein managed to get a head on it first and popped it into the top right corner of the net.
Less than five minutes into the first overtime, fatigued Hurricane defenders allowed Baret to come loose around the baseline and fire a shot from the right side. Landau dove and blocked the shot but couldn’t hang on to the ball, which deflected toward the center, and Reed Cawthon was there to tap it in, ending the game.
“It’s an absolute heartbreaker,” Dichy said. “Especially since its the last game for our seniors and all we wanted was to take them out with a state championship.”
Belen 0 0 0 0 5 — 5 9 0
Killian 1 0 0 0 0 —1 3 2
NOR 4 0 3 2 2 2
NM 0 0 3 0 0 4
CG 0 0 0 1 0 — 1 6 0
LS 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 4 1
CCS 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 — 3 4 0
MAC 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 3 1
ACC 3 5 3 4 —15 11 2
ABC 0 0 0 0 — 0 2 4