HUDSON — While Hudson players might not call this playoff run a Cinderella story, their impressive season ended Friday night in the Class 4A region final. Two-time defending state champion Ponte Vedra Nease defeated Hudson 3-1 to move on to the state semifinals.
"We really didn't expect (Hudson) to be this good," Nease coach Johnny Sarpi said. "They had a lot of chances to score, and they really challenged us."
The Panthers (24-2-1) scored first, striking on a goal from Filip Ivanov in the early first half. Ivanov went streaking toward the net and shot past Hudson keeper Todd Rushing (seven saves).
A host of seniors' careers ended with the loss, including Rushing and leading scorer Scotty Combs.
Combs didn't score and was still suffering from some bumps and bruises from Tuesday's semifinal win. Emilio Rivera, Combs' sub, scored the lone goal for the Cobras (19-6-3) with about 10 minutes left in the first half to tie the game going into halftime.
"You never want it to end," Combs said. "I didn't think it was going to end, especially with this group of guys."
In the second half, Nease proved to be too much for the home team. Hudson's Wayne Ewing attempted a slide tackle on the Panthers' A.J. Nelson and was called for a foul in the crease. The call resulted in a penalty kick for Nelson and the go-ahead goal.
"We played a little too defensively tonight," Hudson coach Paul Vescio said. "They had us on our heels."
Nease added a final score with about 10 minutes remaining in with another goal from Ivanov, again streaking unassisted for the net.