TAMPA — The day Berkeley Prep had envisioned for five years came wrapped in warm weather and blue skies. The field at Pepin Stadium was a near-perfect swath of grass basically sitting in the Buccaneers' back yard.
The setting for Saturday's Class 3A boys soccer state final was almost perfect, but the result certainly was not.
A 2-1 loss to Jacksonville Bolles tarnished what Berkeley Prep had hoped would be its day.
"We said there was absolutely no way we could lose once we score," the Bucs' Joey Rosati said. "… I don't know what happened."
The Bucs (29-3) struggled offensively with top scoring threat T.J. Roehn hobbled by an ankle injury from Friday's 3-0 semifinal win. Roehn did not start, but he came off the bench early showing clear signs he was not at full strength.
Still, Berkeley scored the first goal in the 14th minute when Rosati fired a free kick in past Bolles keeper John Rush from about 40 yards out for a 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs (22-6-4) rebounded in the 19th minute when Patrick Lanahan tied it at 1.
The decisive goal came on a misplayed clearance when Bucs defender Matt Felman kicked the ball to Bulldogs forward Jake Keator. He instinctively sent the ball on goal from roughly 25 yards out, finding an opening to the low right to beat keeper Alex Jenkins for a 2-1 lead in the 56th minute.
"Things happen like that, and you have to take advantage," Keator said. "That's just years of practice coming out in the final minutes of the game."
For Bolles, the win meant quite a lot. At Bolles, the boys soccer team is constantly reminded of the many state titles claimed by the school's athletic teams. After 14 final fours, the boys soccer team finally won its first state title.
Before the postgame interviews ended, Rosati began to make sense of the season as a whole, one that included the program's first Admiral Tournament title.
"We can't let this game define us," Rosati said. "… I had the best time playing with these guys. Second place in the state, that's tremendous. It's not what we wanted, but it's better than many can hope for."