Forest Hill and South Broward took to the soccer field with heavy hearts.
The Bulldogs were one of the few Broward County teams who played in any sport on Wednesday. The Broward County Athletic Association tried to postpone most games following the mass shooting at Parkland-Stoneman Douglas that left at least 17 people dead.
The Bulldogs lost 1-1 (4-2 penalty kicks) in Wednesday’s Class 4A regional final, but the day’s tragedy put the game in perspective.
“Unfortunately, we came up short, but that’s a part of life,” South Broward coach Lionel Brown said. “There’s a lot more things in life that are worse than this, so you’ve got to be grateful for the fact that we’re here to play the game and enjoy the game. Many students today didn’t have the opportunity to even go back home to their families.
“It’s a blessing. The result may not be (what we want), but it’s a blessing to be alive and to be able to have life.”
The Bulldogs were allowed to play because they were en route to Forest Hill when the BCAA made the decision to postpone the day’s games.
“(The shooting is) an absolute tragedy,” Forest Hill coach Ryan Wells said. “I don’t want to get into the politics of that, of course, but I feel very, very bad. I’m glad they made it up here. I know a lot of them, that school’s very close to South Broward, and I know that a lot of them must know people down there …
“I think it’s great, though, they get to play the game they love — even though they didn’t get the result they want — and it takes, at least, it off their mind for 80 minutes.”
On the field, Wells had things to be happy about. The Falcons, who are enjoying one of the best seasons in program history, went down 1-0 just before halftime on a free-kick goal by the Bulldogs’ Damien Fernandez.
Forest Hill does not have a high-scoring offense, and the Falcons couldn’t find the back of the net for nearly the whole game. Finally, in the game’s final minutes, Christian Rizo (the Groza Award Place-Kicker of the Year in football) found Isaias Ramirez, who got Forest Hill on the board just in the nick of time.
Neither team could get the golden goal in overtime, so the game went to penalty kicks. South Broward had one shot saved and one go over the net, so when Isaias Lobos fired the Falcons’ fifth shot into the net, the team got to celebrate becoming the first Forest Hill boys soccer team to ever reach the state semifinals.
“I told this team at the very beginning of the season that we were something special,” Wells said. “I challenged them to not only be the best team in the school, but also in the county. And they’ve stepped up.”
American Heritage 2, Miami-LaSalle 1: Douglas Phillips scored the game-winning goal and Riley Ferch had the assist, as the Stallions held off the Royal Lions in a Class 2A regional final in Delray Beach.