With tears running down his face, all Kevin Herrera could do was mutter in a low tone — “two minutes, two lousy stinking minutes.”
Technically, it was 2 1/2minutes, but that detail meant little to Herrera and his distraught Miami Beach teammates at that moment. Hi-Tide players were inconsolable following a 2-1 overtime penalty kick shootout loss (3-2 PKs) to Plant City in the Class 5A boys’ soccer championship game at Spec Martin Stadium on the campus of Stetson University.
Looking for the school’s first state championship in any sport in 48 years, the Hi-Tides, thanks to a Leo Acosta goal nine minutes before halftime, were less than three minutes away from that magical moment. Then it all got ripped away.
That’s when Plant City tied the score with 2:31 left in regulation and, when neither team could score a golden goal, won it when Raiders goalkeeper David Jalomo made three consecutive saves to Beach keeper Jose Escobar’s two.
When Plant City’s Ricardo Rosales knocked his team’s fifth PK past Escobar, Raiders players stormed the field in mass celebration while most Beach players, emotionally and physically spent from the searing midafternoon heat collapsed on the ground, not getting up for five minutes to the point where the state’s postgame medal ceremony was delayed.
“My mother, my family was here, I just wanted to do this in front of them so badly,” Herrera said. “But I know that myself and all of my teammates left everything we had on that field today.”
The Hi-Tides (24-3-1), who were looking to break a near half-century drought for the school in state titles in any sport, the baseball team the last to do it in 1970, (a boys’ water polo title in 2004 was before the sport was state-sanctioned) were closing in on that championship, despite not being able to muster much offense in the second half and add a much-needed insurance goal.
Then came the game-changing moment with 2:36 left. That’s when the team’s leading scorer and best player, Josue “Chino” Aguilar appeared to get fouled at midfield. But in a stunning reversal, the referee gave Aguilar a yellow card, his second resulting in a blue card, ejection from the game and forcing Beach to play a man short.
Jalomo came out from the net to take the resulting free kick for the Raiders and rocketed a deep shot in front of the net that Escobar couldn’t get to and Raiders forward Paulino Ramirez did, heading it into the net.
“This is a really tough moment and I’m just heartbroken for our kids because they had worked so hard to make it to this moment,” Miami Beach coach Edgar Botto said. “Even though we were a man short in the overtime and our kids were gassed from the heat, we were the ones that kept pressing offensively trying to create chances. It showed what they are made of, and I’m proud of every last one of them.”
“You work so hard during the season to make it to this point and then to see it all disappear is just devastating,” said Acosta who scored thanks to a centering pass from Toby Squire off a deep direct kick from Lucas Arellano. “Even after they tied us and we lost Chino and were a man short, we just kept bringing it and as awful as I feel right now, I’m proud to stand here next to my teammates.”