American Heritage scored with four seconds left in the second overtime period to win the Class 3A title over Seabreeze.
Nate Murphy could hardly speak as he struggled to hold back the tears: The season wasn’t supposed to end like this.
The Sandcrabs, battling injuries and exhaustion, were seconds away from a penalty kick shootout against American Heritage that would decide the winner of the Class 3A state championship. But, with four seconds left in the second overtime period, the Patriots’ Sebastian Vidarte ripped a ball from just inside the 18-yard box. The shot grazed the finger tips of Sandcrabs goal keeper Cameron Bowling.
It wasn’t enough.
The sudden-death goal gave American Heritage the 1-0 win over Seabreeze (17-3-4) on the night of Saturday, Feb. 24, at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand.
It was Murphy’s last game as head coach of the Sandcrabs.
“I’m not even mad that we lost,” said Murphy, who coached the Sandcrabs to a state title in 2017, his first season with the team. “I’m just mad that I don’t get to be with these kids anymore.”
Despite the outcome, the Sandcrabs had their chances.
With 13:40 to play in the second half of regulation, a laser-beam strike by center back Josh Tepper whizzed past the top of the crossbar, and in the opening minute of overtime, Tepper and forward Jacob McNeely each had opportunities to score but didn’t.
However, the Sandcrabs’ best opportunity came in the 87th minute of the contest.
The Patriots’ freshman goal keeper, Ralph Montero, made a diving, one-handed save to keep midfielder Will Crotty’s header out of the net.
“That save was just absurd,” said Bowling, who totaled nine saves of his own.
The Sandcrabs’ top goal scorer, Franco Perez, struggled to put the ball on line throughout the game. After taking a tumble midway through the second overtime period, the senior forward limped gingerly for the remainder of the game.
He, like the rest of his team, played over 100 minutes on Saturday night.
“It was a mixture of everything: cramps, fatigue, emotions running high,” Perez said of his struggles. “It was all rolled into one.”
Perez was on the far left side of the field when American Heritage made a final push in the dying seconds of overtime. He was confident his defense would hold. When the shot went in, he was speechless. Doused in sweat, dirt and tears, Perez sat down on the field and put his hands over his head.
“I think I’m going to remember the last four seconds of this game for the rest of my life,” he said. “At the end of the day, I just feel empty.”