It was only the first game.
But for a team that has only won four games combined in four seasons, it felt like winning a championship.
Sunset’s football team, which has suffered four consecutive 1-9 seasons, opened what it hopes is a turnaround year with a 7-6 upset over South Miami on Wednesday night at Tropical Park.
“I can’t even talk right now,” Sunset coach Joseph Petisco said. “These guys have put in so much hard work and it’s about them. They’re the reason I get up in the morning and there’s more good things to come.”
Petisco, a graduate of Sunset, barely could contain his emotions as he watched his players celebrate.
And who could blame them?
Sunset (1-0) last made the playoffs in 2009, which at that point marked the fifth consecutive time the Knights had advanced to the postseason. Sunset was during that stretch arguably the most consistent team in its district.
In recent years, however, wins have been scarce, and it has been a struggle to remain competitive.
But throughout the difficult times, the Knights have held true to a motto coined by former Sunset coach Robert Fernandez.
“Everywhere you look in our locker room, it says ‘Mountains to Climb,’ ” Petisco said. “That’s what coach Fernandez taught us and it’s what we live by.”
Fernandez, who led Sunset to its first playoff berth, died in 2006 after a battle with cancer. His message has been carried on by each graduating class since.
Petisco became the Knights coach last season after eight years as an assistant. His team returned 13 combined starters, some of whom played key roles in the Knights’ win Wednesday.
Senior running back Curtis Doctor ran for 100 yards on 16 carries, and junior quarterback Ludavic Saintvil totaled 126 yards on 18 rushes as Sunset finished with 248 yards rushing.
The Knights made their share of mistakes, losing four fumbles (two of which were caused and recovered by junior Robert Brown) including a couple in the red zone that prevented them from taking a larger lead.
But Saintvil broke a scoreless stalemate late in the third quarter when he scrambled and took off down the sideline swerving around defenders for a 20-yard touchdown run.
Southwest has opened the season in playoff form, earning a hard-fought 27-25, 25-21, 25-22 victory over Ferguson on Wednesday, a day after defeating Lourdes in its girls’ volleyball season-opener. Sheyanne Sullivan, who had 13 kills and 13 digs against Lourdes, was the catalyst again on Wednesday against Ferguson with 14 kills and 11 digs. Jocelyn Garcia added 12 kills and Sheila Rojas had 15 digs and two aces for Southwest (2-0).
Medalist Chris Nido (72) was the lone Gulliver Prep golfer to break the top 10 at the Westminster Christian Invitational on Tuesday but it was enough to help the Raiders win the team title by one point.
Pine Crest and Archbishop McCarthy finished tied for second (304) in regulation before Pine Crest beat the Mavericks in a playoff for the runner-up spot.
Pine Crest went 2-4-9 behind Miles Castro (72), Ryan Fluxman (74) and Steven Chervony (75). Nick Badyna paced Archbishop by shooting 74 for sixth place.
Westminster Christian Invitational: Gulliver 303, 2. Pine Crest 304,. Archbishop McCarthy 304, St. Andrews 305, Ransom 322, Columbus 324, Belen 328, Palmer 330,.Miami Country Day 354, Westminster Christian 370, Coral Gables 391. Individual scores: 1. Chris Nido (Gul) 71, 2. Mile Castro (PC) 72, 3. Justin Zwiebel (SA) 73, 4. Ryan Fluxman (PC) 74, 5. Daniel Gonzalez-Quevedo (AM) 74, 6. Nick Badyna (AM) 74, 7. A.J. Martinez (Bel) 75, 8. Matt Glenn (SA) 75, 9. Steven Chervony (PC) 75, 10. Alec Allmon (RE) 76, Francisco de la Torre (Col) 76.
Columbus 152, Palmetto 164, Sunset (NA) (at Palmetto Golf Course, Par 36). Columbus: *Joaquin Trigueros 37(low score), Rafa Martinez 38, Jake Moscoso 39, Francisco De La Torre 43, Sharif Amastha 47. Palmetto: Daniel Hasty 43, David Burnham 39, Gareth Williams 41, Carl Gallo 41, Nicholas Campos 47, Christian Spillis 48.
Late Tuesday-• HML d. North Miami (25-13. 25-14. 25-13): Fatima Madlum 4 kills, 14 assists, 8 digs; Jessy Marquez 6 kills, 16 digs; Jenny Marquez 10 kills; Cassidy Cruz 10 digs, 4 aces.
Coral Reef 110, Hialeah Gardens 58. 200: Cloe Bedand (CR). 100 backstroke: Claudia Canchica (HG).
Hialeah Gardens 118, Coral Reef 56. 100 fly: Diego Mateus (HG). 100 breast: Jonathan Olivio (CR).