Lutz- After defeating East Lake two times before, once for the district championship, the Warriors just weren’t prepared for their 4-3 loss in the Class 5A Regional Semi-Final match-up Tuesday night.
“We came out here and played hard. Stuff happens” said goalkeeper Christian Knight. “It sucks that it didn’t go our way but there isn’t really one thing that you can say contributed to this loss”.
To senior Blake Wilson, it didn’t matter that they had beaten East Lake two times before because today was a new day and this was a “do or die game.” The Warriors were at full strength due to the return of Austin Labban, but East Lake tried a new approach. They put pressure on the defense every chance they got and eventually, with six minutes left to play in the first half, Eagle Pierre Goris scored the first goal.
However, the Eagles weren’t done, as they scored a goal three minutes into the second half by Dino Papadopoulos. At the time, replacement Zealand Shannon took over in the net for Knight who had suffered from a minor knee injury according to the Warrior coaching staff. Knight returned two minutes later.
“We knew East Lake was great and they had a lot of heart but we came into this game thinking we had more. It just wasn’t enough” said Noah Keene.
With the help of the ecstatic Gold Crew and also a desire for success, Wilson was able to make the game 2-1 with 14 minutes left after sophomore Michael Connell was taken down in the East Lake box causing a penalty kick.
Steinbrenner, with 12 minutes left to play, tied up the match with a goal by Andres Saenz who kicked it in after a throw in was sent into the box by Zachary Yarish.
With the game tied at two with only six minutes remaining, East Lake scored a goal that would have seemed to put the game away. But for Austin Labban, he wouldn’t let it stop there. After taking the ball past numerous defenders, he crossed the ball right into the heart of the Eagles defense where Keene was able to boot one right in for a clutch goal.
“When we tied it up with that third goal we thought for sure we were going to win. We had done this so many times before” said Keene.
And with that, Steinbrenner entered its third consecutive golden goal overtime known by many to be Steinbrenner’s favorite time of the game. However, instead of Wilson or any other Warriors bringing their opponents to their knees, East Lake player,Alejandro Gonzalez sent a ball right through Knight. That one moment managed to silence the whole stadium, especially the Gold Crew. Both players and students from Steinbrenner were shocked that the team they had beaten twice before had managed to come back.
“I have never been more proud of a team in my life. We didn’t just come back from one but from two goals, all in five minutes and I have never seen it before” said Wilson. “East Lake, they played a hell of a game and they came out on top tonight”.
Evan Abramson/Senior Staff Writer