Connor Rioux scored with 7:35 remaining to put the game away.
Seabreeze boys soccer player Connor Rioux broke his ankle right before the end of the first half of the Class 3A state championship game last season. He wasn’t on the field when the Sandcrabs went to overtime with American Heritage. He could only watch as the Patriots scored with 4 seconds left to win the title.
Returning to the state championship game has been at the forefront of his mind since that moment.
“I just have to get back there,” Rioux said after the Sandcrabs’ 2-0 win over Taylor in the District 6-3A championship on the night of Friday, Feb. 1, at the Ormond Beach Sports Complex. “I’m going to go 120% until we get back.”
The Sandcrabs scored early against Taylor. Dillon Vollinger pounced on a ball that was bouncing along the front of the goal nearly 5 minutes into the first half.
The Sandcrabs struggled to get scoring opportunities for the remainder of the game.
“I love playing Taylor, but I also hate playing them,” Seabreeze’s first-year head coach Eli Freidus joked. “They always play us tough. They’re a good team.”
Rioux put the game away with a goal with 7:35 left to play in the game. Freidus called it “one of the best plays of the year.”
He played the ball perfectly between a pair of Taylor defenders. The ball found the upper left corner of the net.
“I had to put it in the goal,” he said. “We needed to finish this game.”
Teams don’t need to win the district in order to win the state championship. The Sandcrabs won the title in 2016 after losing in the district title match. But a district champion means a home-field advantage during regionals.
The Sandcrabs will most likely face Taylor once again in the regional semifinal — if both teams win their regional openers.
“We’re one step closer to our goal,” Freidus said. “Now it’s really business time. If you lose you go home.”
Vollinger added: “We’ve got to win that trophy. It’s ours.”