An exciting playoff run for the Cross Keys Indians’ soccer team came to an end in a thrilling 1-0 loss to No. 1 ranked and undefeated St. Pius X in the Class 4A State Championship at Mercer University’s Five Star Stadium on Thursday night.
It was the first ever appearance for Cross Keys in a soccer title game and they left it all on the field in a heartbreaking loss to the Golden Lions.
Despite a 2-0 loss to the 22-0 Lions back on February 10, the Indians (15-4-1) showed no fear attacking the St. Pius defense and getting a pair of scoring chances on corner kicks during the first five minutes of play.
St. Pius turned the Indians away with some great defensive play in front of the net and got two scoring opportunities of their own within the next seven minutes.
A corner kick scoring opportunity was turned away as the Indians showed their defensive prowess in front of goalkeeper Alexis Briceno.
Briceno came up big as a Lion player slipped past two defenders and kicked the ball ahead where he dove to gobble up the ball and thwart the Lions’ second scoring opportunity with 28:29 to play in the first half.
The Indians got the ball back up the field just a minute later and a shot deflected by the St. Pius goalie bounced out to Roberto Martinez who drilled a shot back up the middle where St. Pius defender Luc Patberg managed to get his body in front of the shot to prevent the Indians from taking the lead.
After a few back-and-forth moments, St. Pius senior Louie Aponte lofted a shot from the left side towards the far corner of the Indian goal. Briceno jumped at the corner and tipped the ball only to have it hit the cross bar and fall into the goal giving St. Pius a 1-0 lead with 19:35 to play in the first half.
The senior goalie was injured on the play and limped off after making a big save less than a minute later to keep the margin at 1-0. He was replaced by sophomore Eduardo Cabrera for the rest of the game and the Indians’ defense would have to help out the inexperienced goalie to stay within striking distance.
Cross Keys had scoring opportunities with 15:46 and 4:38 to play in the first half, but the St. Pius defense was up to the task.
The Lions got a strong push to the goal with 2:45 to play, but Cabrera leaped high to snag the kick to keep the Lions’ lead at just 1-0 at the half.
The two teams battled up and down the field in the second half with just a few scoring opportunities but both defenses made hustling plays to prevent any score change.
The clock was ticking down to 30 seconds when the Indians got pressure up front on the St. Pius defense as the two groups of fans came to their feet. Cross Keys worked the ball to the left side and back to middle. An opening in the Lion defense allowed Gilberto Ramos a shot opportunity with 29 seconds to play, but the ball was about six inches as it hit the crossbar square and glanced away.
The Indians got the ball back as the clock ticked and could not get off another shot as the Lions held on for the win.