Suffice it to say there was no school at Scheck Hillel on Wednesday morning.
That’s because virtually the entire student body was in the stands at Melbourne High School on Tuesday night. And for good reason.
They wanted to witness history and got their wish. They watched their boys’ soccer team storm the center of the field following Hillel’s dramatic 1-0 (5-4 PKs) overtime penalty-kick victory against defending state champion Maitland Orangewood Christian in the 1A state title game that went deep into the night.
The small Jewish school tucked away in a small northeast corner of North Miami Beach now has its first state championship in any sport.
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“To be a small Jewish school and now be a state champion, it’s something I can’t even grasp right now,” Hillel head coach Ben Magidson said. “We are now the state champions. Look at this, the whole school came out. What an unbelievable moment for everyone.”
As is usually does when a game comes down to penalty kicks, one goalkeeper is the hero, and that turned out to be Hillel’s Alan Landau. After five rounds of PKs left things still knotted at 4-4, Salo Lapco knocked one home for the Lions to put them up 5-4.
That left it up to Orangewood’s Scott Morell to score and extend the match. But Landau, Hillel’s only starter from the team that lost the state-title game to Tampa Prep on the same field, guessed correctly and stretched to his right, stuffing Morell’s shot and leaving it up to his teammates to mob him in a wild celebration.
To be a small Jewish school and now be a state champion, it’s something I can’t even grasp right now. We are now the state champions. Look at this, the whole school came out. What an unbelievable moment for everyone.
The loss snapped a 45-game unbeaten streak for Orangewood Christian (20-1-3) dating to November 2014. The Lions finished the season unbeaten at 19-0-1.
“This is four years in the making and we made history tonight,” Landau said. “I lost here as a freshman three years ago so it’s been a long, long journey, but we worked hard, powered through everything, were united all the way, and tonight was our reward. This is history tonight! What a privilege to be a part of something so special.”
With a number of fans traveling to Melbourne — mostly students decked in black — one might have thought Hillel was a local school a few miles down the road.
“What a moment for us,” said senior Netty Silberman, whose hat trick propelled the Lions to a 3-2 overtime win against Naples Community School in a state semifinal 24 hours earlier. “It’s an honor for me and my team to be a part of the Jewish community and bring this trophy home. This belongs as much to those guys over there [pointing to the fans] as it does to us. I have to admit, today is the best day of my life. I’m so thankful to be a part of this.”
The game was scoreless at halftime and Hillel was lucky it was as the Rams dominated the first 40 minutes with numerous scoring chances.
Not once but twice A.J. Moulton came within an eyelash of scoring. First in the game’s sixth minute on a header that Landau barely got a hand on, causing the ball to bounce off the crossbar, and then six minutes later from close in on the left side as the ball bounced off the left post.
In the 24th minute Paul Diaz got a clean look from 30 yards and hit a rocket shot toward the bottom left, but Landau made a diving save. Just seconds before halftime a deep throw-in by Moulton left the ball in front of the net and Landau couldn’t locate it. Just before an Orangewood player attempted to knock it in, Hillel’s Daniel Franco managed to get a foot on it and clear it out.
“I told them at halftime that we were lucky that we weren’t down 8-0,” Magidson said. “It was all them [Orangewood] but we kind of stemmed it a little bit in the second half even though we didn’t get a lot of chances, but the kids just hung tough throughout.”
But the Rams still had some quality chances. With 25 minutes left, again it appeared that Orangewood would break the scoreless deadlock when John Lowrey took a pass down low and was point-blank with Landau. But the goalie dived to make another outstanding save.
With 12 minutes left, Moulton took a long direct kick down low that led to a wild scramble for the ball. Moulton knocked the ball in but the linesman waved it off, ruling that Landau had possession and Moulton knocked it out of the goalie’s hands.
“This is mind-boggling,” senior midfielder Daniel Franco said. “We’re so proud of the Jewish community, and for us to pull something like this off, it hasn’t even sunk in yet. I know one thing, I don’t think we would’ve done it without such incredible support from our student body. They had a lot to do with what happened out here tonight.”