When midfielder Michael Gillman gave Jesuit a one-goal lead in the 63rd minute Friday against Jensen Beach, the Tigers not only felt as if the game was in hand, but figured more goals were possible.
"We thought we had them," Gillman said.
That was hardly the case.
Down the stretch, the Falcons scored twice in the final 13 minutes to rally for a 4-3 victory at Lockhart Stadium as Jesuit's first final four appearance since 2001 ended in heartbreak. The winner came off the foot of Jerry Balzer in the 78th minute.
"They didn't quit," Jesuit coach Bob Bauman said of Jensen Beach. "Every time we got a goal, they came right back at us."
No previous Jesuit opponent had scored more than three goals. In 29 previous outings, the Tigers (24-5-1) allowed a combined 16 goals while pitching 21 shutouts. Jensen Beach (21-2), in its first final four appearance, was outshot 19-11 but simply made the most of its scoring opportunities.
Jesuit was seeking its seventh state championship, but fell behind 1-0 in the 14th minute on the first of three Kyle Conrad goals.
The Tigers rallied to tie on a penalty kick by midfielder Santi Alexis 19 minutes later, then Alexis struck again on another penalty kick with 42 seconds left in the half.
"We felt then that the momentum had swung," Alexis said.
Jensen Beach made it 2-all eight minutes into the second half, but Jesuit again surged ahead, this time on Gillman's score, which came on an assist from Alexis.
After Jensen Beach took the lead for good, Jesuit had a few late scoring chances, but its best effort was a shot that sailed well high of the net.
4A: Pasco ousted FORT LAUDERDALE -- The Pirates circled at midfield, arm in arm for a pep talk to start the second half. That emotional strategy, however, failed to rejuvenate Pasco in a 5-2 loss to Middleburg.
Jose Montelongo, Pasco County's scoring leader and single-season record holder, scored his 44th goal in the 59th minute to pull the Pirates within 3-2.
That was as close as Pasco would come as Michael McDonald completed his hat trick in the 70th minute by looping the ball over Pasco goalkeeper Luis Hernandez for a 4-2 lead.
Middleburg's Brent O'Keefe added a goal in the 76th minute to account for the final margin.
-- STEVE LEE, Times staff writer
A LOOK BACK
Relive the action and celebration of Palm Harbor University's two state soccer titles -- girls and boys -- through pictures at tbt.com.