TAMPA — Countryside was mere seconds from advancing to the Class 6A region semifinals.
It's fair to say the Cougars dominated host Plant for most of regulation Thursday. The Cougars has more scoring opportunities and dictated the pace, especially in the second half, mounting a one-goal lead.
But Cougars coach David Sica could only watch it all unravel as Plant scored in the final minute of regulation. Then, the Panthers scored again in the second 10-minute overtime session, ending Countryside's season after 97 minutes with a 2-1 defeat.
Plant students stormed the field in celebration.
"You can tell them a lot of stuff after a loss like this, the big thing is that this is why you keep playing," Sica said. "It's a valuable lesson. Take nothing away from Plant. They kept fighting. They didn't quit. I think we lost our composure, but that was Plant."
For most of the game it appeared Countryside junior Jagger Martinez's left-footed shot from 20 yards in the 45th minute was going to be the winner.
But in the 80th minute, Plant's Josh Fernandez charged a ball in front of the goal — on likely Plant's final charge before the whistle — flicked it to the right and into the net.
"I thought I would hesitate," Fernandez said. "I just went for it. We had nothing to lose at that point."
Then, in the second overtime, the Cougars defense jumped on Plant senior Josh Munch in transition, he tapped it to Danny Johnson, who scored the winner for the Panthers (11-7-1).
Countryside (15-10-1) had its opportunities to close out Plant. A goal was called back in the 61st minute because of a foul call. Countryside midfielder Mike Lion was ejected after his second yellow card; the teams combined for seven yellows.
"The kids have to learn that they have to play a full 80 minutes," Sica said. "My guys worked hard. It's a shame there had to be a loser tonight. I thought we dominated a majority of the game, in my opinion. I still don't have an explanation on the (called-back) goal."