The dominant force in CHSAA boys soccer for a generation of players, Chaminade got shaken to its core on Tuesday as it opened league play at St. John the Baptist.
The Flyers, state Catholic champions the past three years, found themselves down a goal as the clock ticked into the final minute of play. There — with equal measures of desperation, skill and luck — they found a way to win. Jose Pena scored twice in the final 59.4 seconds to lift Chaminade past the Cougars, 4-3.
St. John goalkeeper Ryan Sisco made a brilliant save on a hard shot, but the ricochet went to Pena right in front of the goal and he was able to push it in and tie the score with the clock at :59.4. Chaminade was awarded a direct kick after a Cougar foul with 5.9 seconds to play and Pena skipped it just past a diving Sisco for the win.
“Being down 3-2 was really stressful,” the Flyers’ Michael Lynch said, “but you don’t lose hope because we know we have what it takes to win any game and we never give in until it’s over.”
“Being a part of this program, you learn to never let up,” Pena said. “To score the two goals right at the end? It’s an amazing feeling.”
Chaminade (3-0, 1-0) ran its win streak against St. John the Baptist (2-1, 0-1) to nine straight with the victory.
“This game is a very big deal because [Chaminade] has won the last four championships in our [Diocese] and three straight state titles,” SJB coach Nick Gallagher said. “Our guys are emotional about this ended and it’s heartbreaking but now we have to move forward from this.”
Michael Medina gave SJB its only lead with just 5:20 to play. It was pandemonium for the Cougars as they celebrated, but it would not last.
St. John was turned away on a good scoring chance in the opening seconds and Pena turned it into a Chaminade breakaway, finding Brendan Slattery for the first of his two goals. Zan Brown evened the score with 11:53 left after a nifty steal right in front of the Chaminade goal. Lynch outraced the Cougars down the right sideline and made a pretty centering pass to Slattery who headed the ball in with 39:28 left. Smith evened it again on a penalty kick with 27:56 to play.
“St. John gave us what for and this was a tough way to win,” Flyers coach Michael Gallagher said. “I am grateful we came back.”
Nick Gallagher — yes, the coaches are brothers — said he told his team that it should walk away from this disappointment “knowing that they are good enough to beat” the defending champs. They will get another chance on Oct. 4 when the teams meet at Chaminade.