Miami-Dade High Schools

Columbus captures state crown

It only figured that on a team putting on a most unlikely run through the state playoffs all the way to the championship game, that it would come down to a backup goalkeeper.

Carlos Rohl hardly saw the field during most of this magical playoff run for his Columbus Explorers soccer team. But when his big moment came, Rohl answered the bell in a major way.

With his team locked in a penalty-kick marathon with Boca Raton in the Class 5A state championship game, Rohl dove to his right, stopping a Liam Mahon penalty kick and then watched his players bull rush him and mob him in a massive celebration.

That’s because Columbus’ remarkable and unlikely run through the postseason came to a Cinderella conclusion Saturday night. After 100 minutes of scoreless soccer, the Explorers won the penalty-kick shootout to stun No. 1-ranked and No. 8 nationally ranked Boca Raton 1-0, 4-3 in kicks, at Eastern Florida State College.

The upset capped off an amazing day for boys’ soccer in Miami-Dade County as Columbus’ state title came just six hours after Gulliver Prep turned the trick, marking only the third time in history that two Miami-Dade boys’ programs won a title in the same year and the first time since 1999 when Gulliver and American did it.

“You dream about something like that, but you actually never really think you’ll be in that kind of a position,” Rohl said. “I still can’t really believe it. I just tried to keep calm. I don’t worry about anything else; just focus on the kicker. I always try to read the eyes, but sometimes they like to go the opposite way, so I look at the hips, and I saw him open his hips one way, so I figured he was going to go left, and I got it.”

And it was actually Rohl’s second save in the shootout. Even more amazing is that Rohl actually switched off with another keeper, Stephen Milian, who also made a save on Boca’s first kick. Bryan Alvarez, who worked in front of the net all night and benefitted from some great Columbus defense, watched all of the PKs from the bench.

“I was taught about seven years ago that when you have two or three goalkeepers, you need to figure out what they can do,” said Columbus coach Michael Stewart, whose team finished 20-3-4. “Sometimes a guy coming off the bench is going to serve to help his team. You may think that by sitting there, they’re not watching the game, but they’re alert to what’s going on and what some players have a tendency to do.”