Varela was forced to play shorthanded when a red card was dealt in the 51st minute to Sebastian Lara. It didn't matter. Cypress Bay (23-5-2) was unable to use the extra player to its advantage as the Lightning fell to the 2007 6A state champion, 2-1 (4-1 PK) at Lockhart Stadium Saturday night.
Tied at one when the red card was given, the Lightning had multiple opportunities to score. Midway through the second half, Gonzalo DeMujica had a good look at the goal, but his kick rolled just inches from the net.
“I tried to control it and I was hoping that it would go in,” DeMujica, who had an assist in the state semifinal game, said. “But we didn’t have that much of an advantage even with an extra player. Instead of 10 players at 100%, we played against nine giving 200%.”
Lightning goalkeeper Jesse Fullerton knows firsthand how dangerous red cards can be. Fullerton, a senior, was forced to watch his squad play the regional semifinal and final games without him after he was sidelined with the infraction.
He was a big contributor to his Lightning team advancing to the state championship game.
While Cypress Bay tried in vain to avoid penalty kicks, Varela was doing everything in its power to get back to an even playing field.
“We really needed to capitalize on our chances,” Fullerton said. “They’re ranked #1 in the nation and we held them for a long time. Even though we didn’t go to penalty kicks this season, they are nothing new to me. It just didn’t work out for us tonight.”
The loss to Varela marks the second time that the Lightning has lost in the state finals to a Miami-Dade team. Cypress Bay advanced to the 6A championship game in 2004 and lost to Sunset 2-0.