SBHS Boys Soccer: The Road to States

Nicholas+%22Nico%22+Robles+celebrates+with+his+team+after+scoring+the+first+goal+of+the+match.+With+only+10+minutes+into+the+game%2C+he+scored+a+head+shot+putting+SBHS+in+the+lead.

Julia Gillman

Nicholas "Nico" Robles celebrates with his team after scoring the first goal of the match. With only 10 minutes into the game, he scored a head shot putting SBHS in the lead.

     In the movie Hoosiers, a small-town underdog basketball team beats all the odds and wins the title against a rich, talented, top ranked team. For underdogs South Broward High School’s boys soccer team, it looked like life was imitating art as they headed into the state championship game against, Niceville, the number one ranked team in Florida and number two in the nation.

    And they came so close. But the Eagles proved to be a formidable opponent. On Saturday, February 29, the Bulldogs lost to the Eagles, 7-3, in overtime. However, the final score doesn’t tell the whole story.

    The game started off well, with Bulldog mid-fielder Nicolas “Nico” Robles scoring the first goal from the corner 10 minutes into the first half.  Then, Niceville retaliated making the score 1-1. It was tit-for-tat throughout the entire first half, with the Bulldogs always one goal ahead of Eagles.

    Tied 2-2, tension grew in the second half as both teams fought to gain the lead. The Bulldogs pulled ahead when SBHS’ Kyle Smith passed the ball to striker Daniel Popa, who then shot at the goal. It missed, but teammate Michael “Mickey” Gonzalez came from behind and scored 11 minutes into the second half.

    More than 100 SBHS fans went wild in the stands with the Bulldogs in the lead 3-2.

“It was crazy. We were ready for the game to finish,” said Gonzalez. “We  just had to get through these 20 minutes  and we would be state champions.”

  But then, the unthinkable happened when SBHS goalie Josh David Alejo suffered an injury on a corner kick, causing him to be temporarily replaced. Niceville quickly landed a third goal for their team to tie it up, ultimately sending the game into overtime. Sadly for the Bulldogs, the Eagles landed another goal in the first few minutes making it 4-3, and goalie Alejo was removed for the rest of the game, his injury getting the best of him.

    “We were in position to win the game, but our goalkeeper got injured, and that hurt us a lot because we had to make some changes,’ said SBHS boys soccer coach Lionel Brown.

    It was downhill from there, with Niceville scoring three more goals in less than 10 minutes.

     “Their fourth goal put pressure on us, forcing us to change our formation,” Bulldog defensive player and SBHS senior Lautaro Santangelo. “And, I guess we couldn’t score like we did in our state semi-final against George Jenkins.”

    Although SBHS took second place, they made it into the top five teams in Florida Class 6A, a huge leap for the underdog team. And, oh, what a ride.

It began after SBHS went against one of their biggest rivals, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, in the regional semifinals on February 15. It was a shut-out with SBHS beating St. Thomas 2-0.

    But the real turning point was the surprise sucker punch against Doral Academy on February 19. Previously, the Bulldogs had lost in a season game against Doral 4-0. To everyone’s surprise they won, beating Doral 4-1.

    “It was a tough game on us,” said Robles. “And towards the end of the game it got more intense. But we actually pulled through in the end.”

      Next on the hit-list: George Jenkins High School. On February  22, the  Bulldogs took  on the team, in a nail-biting, unpredictable semi-final game.

    SBHS boys caught the crowd off guard with only four minutes left of the first half, when Matthew “Matty” Randall scored a goal that tied the teams 1-1 and sent the game into overtime. Then, with only 29 seconds left in overtime, Franciso “Cisco” Contreras Jr. scored an unexpected goal. 2-1. The boys were going to states.

    During the overtime in the state finals game, the SBHS boys put up a fight, but just couldn’t bring it home.

    To say the game was a heartbreaker would be an understatement. But it would also gloss over the fact that a little-known, east-side, Title-1 school scratched their way to the top of the mountain and fought against schools with bigger sports budgets and won a place,  if not at top, at least near the top.

The last time SBHS boys’ soccer team made it to the state championship was…..never. And although it was the first, according to Coach Brown, it won’t be the last.

    “No one thought of us in the beginning of the year, now everybody knows who we are,” said Brown.