MELBOURNE — East Lake coach Alex Stenson usually has no problem giving his team a post game pep talk. But after Friday night’s 3-2 loss to Boca Raton in the Class 5A semifinals at Eastern Florida State College — 4-2 in penalty kicks — Stenson barely knew what to say.
“It was hard to get the words out,” he said. “Those seniors were in tears. They put so much into the second half. There was nothing I could say to make them feel any better. I only told them how proud I was of them.”
The odds were certainly against the Eagles even getting to penalty kicks. They trailed 2-0 and were down a player with 18 minutes left. Pierre Goris was red-carded for a hard foul three minutes into the second half.
But momentum slowly changed just minutes after the Bobcats’ Carlos Pestana flicked a left-footer past goalkeeper Sean Caulfield for a two-goal lead. Boca Raton’s Tomer Bitton received his second yellow card with 16 minutes to play, which also left the Bobcats with 10 players.
With seven minutes left, East Lake (21-4-1) broke through when Bruno Scafidi ran onto a loose ball and beat keeper Joe Acevedo.
“When we got that first one I told (assistant coach) Matt (Algate) that we were going to get the equalizer,” Stenson said. “I could feel it. It was incredible.”
Sure enough, less than a minute later Dino Papadopoulos scored nearly the exact same way to tie it.
“We weren’t going to sit down and do nothing,” said Scafidi, who played sparingly this season due to a torn ACL in his right knee. “We were going to show them what East Lake is all about.”
Neither team had a good chance in the final six minutes of regulation, forcing two 10-minute overtime periods, followed by penalty kicks.
Caulfield started PKs by saving a shot from Sebastien Desir. East Lake’s Tanner Young then hit the right post to keep it tied. The next two for each team scored, and Boca Raton’s Sebastian Elney scored to make it 3-2.
East Lake’s Josh Page, the team’s leading scorer with 30 goals, kicked a slow roller to the right that was saved by Acevedo. When Aaron Kleinart made his shot for the Bobcats, the game was over.
“With a player like Josh, you would bet your house on him scoring,” Stenson said. “And Tanner hits the post. That’s just tough to deal with. Nobody deserves to lose on penalties, but that’s how it went for us.”
Boca Raton (21-1-2) has won 21 straight games. It will play Miami Columbus today for the championship.
“A lot of teams being down 2-0 with seven minutes to play would have quit and they didn’t,” Boca Raton coach Marcelo Castillo said. “That’s a credit to that coaching staff and those players.”