MELBOURNE — After Orlando Bishop Moore scored its third unanswered goal, just 54 seconds into the second half of the Class 2A state semifinals Thursday night, a Berkeley Prep fan screamed from the stands at Eastern Florida State College, reminding the team that the game wasn’t over.
But for the next 19 minutes, the Bucs played as if they knew that it was.
The Hornets scored once more before Berkeley Prep’s Lance Esposito finally got the Bucs on the board in the 60th minute. Esposito’s goal sparked a late Bucs rally, and Berkeley Prep nearly tied the score with less than 10 minutes to go, but the Hornets held on to win 5-3.
The semifinal, Berkeley Prep’s third straight appearance, began Wednesday night, but was stopped in the 22nd minute due to inclement weather. The game was still scoreless when it resumed Thursday, but the Hornets (27-4-1) wasted no time punching in two goals — scored by Sebastian Hincapie and Arturo Ydrach, both assisted by Matt Biber — before the half.
During the break, Berkeley Prep coach Tim Cooper addressed his team inside the very goal it couldn’t seem to defend.
“This is not how we’re going to go out,” Cooper said he told them. “Earn their respect, because right now, you guys basically gave them the two goals.”
It wasn’t an immediate change of heart — Bishop Moore’s Stephen Peppy and David Shafer added two more scores early in the second half— but eventually, the Bucs began playing as if they had nothing to lose.
After Esposito’s score, the Bucs (10-11-5) pounded the Hornets’ goal with shots. In the 65th minute, senior sweeper Austin Iglehart sent a free kick into the box, and Daley Donigan headed it in to make the score 4-2.
Five minutes later, Iglehart — also a Berkeley Prep football player who will kick at Wake Forest next fall — did it again, placing a free kick taken at just about half field at the head of Andrew Kenny, who scored to make it a one-goal game.
“Once the first goal went in, there’s a little spark there, and the momentum completely changes,” Iglehart said. “It’s just completely different on the field. It’s like we just turned it on.”
Moments later, the Bucs slipped in another, sending the Bucs on the bench into a frenzy. But the referee called the goal back, Iglehart said, because of a foul on the goalkeeper. That left just enough time for the Hornets to get an insurance goal in the 75th minute, when Hincapie got past the last defender and scored on a one-on-one with the keeper.
The Bucs’ finale was much like their whole season. Berkeley Prep came into the playoffs with a losing record, and Cooper says, likely not on any team’s radar. Once again, the Bucs appeared to be down for the count, trailing 4-0, but they found the energy for one more fight.
It just wasn’t enough.
“I feel like if we would have come out in this game at the beginning with that kind of heart and that kind of drive in us,” Iglehart said, “I really think we would be feeling a lot differently right now.”