BOCA RATON — Alonso players had to build and build through the season, sometimes suffering tough losses and sometimes wondering if they could get good enough to repeat as state champions.
“We would win a game and I would say, ‘Okay, we were good enough to win that game but still not good enough to win a state title,’” coach Matt Hernandez said. “I would tell them they had to get better, and the wonderful thing is that they bought in and they kept working hard.”
And getting better.
By Saturday in the Class 2A state final, they were so much better that they were good enough to win, which they did, 19-9 over Park Vista.
“Now I can’t believe we did it,” Hernandez said. “Wow, these kids have come so far. We lost 16 players to graduation last year and these kids had to learn everything all over again.”
The Ravens’ starting quarterback, for instance, had never started a varsity game, but there was Sara Rheintgen, throwing winning touchdowns and holding the state title trophy.
“I didn’t know how to lead a team,” said Rheintgen, who started in junior varsity last year. “When I was a freshman and sophomore, I honestly never thought it was possible for me to lead a team to something like this. It’s an amazing feeling to make it happen.”
Adding to Saturday evening’s satisfaction was the fact Rheintgen had to fight through adversity in the state semifinal that morning when she threw three interceptions against Martin County, a team the Ravens expected to beat soundly.
Instead, partly because of the interceptions, Alonso (15-3) muscled out a 13-0 victory.
“When she threw those interceptions, I went over to her and said, ‘That was on me,’” Hernandez said. “I called the wrong plays and put her in that situation.”
Rheintgen said she shrugged off the interceptions for several reasons, but mainly because she understood the situation.
“I said, ‘Okay, some mistakes were made,’ but we’ll be all right because I understand why we made them,” Rheintgen said. “I understood the situation. I think a couple of years ago I would have panicked, but not now. This time I was prepared for it. I was ready.”
In the final game, Rheintgen, and every other Raven, were pretty much lights out.
“We were feeling it when the final started,” said Idalys Acosta, a rusher who unleashed constant havoc on the Park Vista quarterback. “We weren’t going to let anything stop us at that point. Nothing.”