By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Whatever could go wrong, has gone wrong for the Charlotte High School boys soccer team this season.
That looked to be the case again Monday night as the Tarpons blew a three-goal lead to Riverdale and stared a draw dead in the face as time wound down in Punta Gorda.
But thanks to the foot of Kaden Howell, something finally broke right for Charlotte in the game’s final moments.
Howell’s go-ahead goal in the 79th minute was enough to propel Charlotte to a 4-3 victory over Riverdale at home after the Tarpons surrendered three unanswered goals in the second half to allow the Raiders to tie the match. Jonathan Villarreal sent a pass bouncing across the top of the penalty box to Howell, who was able to get the shot up and over Riverdale goalkeeper Abel Vargas, who came out of the net to defend the attack.
“You just got to follow with it and stay with the ball and never give up,” Howell said. “(Villarreal) played a nice ball, I was lucky to have the ball and I just finished it. I did what I had to do.”
Howell’s game-winner not only sent teammates into celebration but also his coach Alex Lebeau, who dropped to the ground in joy and even hurt his neck from celebrating a little too hard.
“I fell on the ground and when I did that I jerked forward and I’ve got one of those ‘when you sleep on it wrong’ kind of pain,” Lebeau said. “That was so stupid. Why did I do that? But it was worth it. I’ll take that over a 3-3 tie.”
Charlotte had a chance to take the lead in the 70th minute when Kerlentz Dorcely tackled Aaron Rivers in the penalty box to set up a penalty kick. Rivers took the shot but sent it straight to Vargas, who deflected it out for one of his two saves in the second half after replacing Clay Doria at halftime.
Rivers was in complete disbelief and even had to leave the game a few minutes later with cramps.
“It felt good to pick him up. It did. Definitely,” Howell said.
Michael Modlasiak, Donal Rateau and Rivers all scored first-half goals to help the Tarpons (3-11) build a 3-0 lead at halftime. Andrew Michel assisted Modlasiak for a goal less than eight minutes into the match while Modlasiak assisted Rateau for a score in the 24th minute and Rateau assisted Rivers for a goal in the 38th minute.
But the Raiders (5-7-3) looked like a completely different team to start the second half, scoring less than five minutes in when Trevin Myers beat the Charlotte defense for a goal thanks to a little give-and-go action with teammate JP D’Alessandra. Dorcely tacked on another goal for Riverdale in the 61st minute before D’Alessandra tied the game in the 65th minute with a shot past goalkeeper Jason Gaudemer, who finished with seven saves.
But unlike other games this season, and in years past, the Tarpons responded. They upped the pressure in the game’s final 10 minutes and ultimately outshot the Raiders 19-18.
“Believe or not, the situation of being up like that and all of a sudden falling to pieces, has happened before. To show that we can still come back from that, not only did we win it, but we created about six or seven chances to win it before that (goal) even happened. It shows that we are fully capable,” Lebeau said.
Charlotte snapped a four-game losing streak with the win.
“I’m glad they pulled it out. It shows a lot of character for these young kids to be in a situation where it’s pretty tough to be in. Coming back form 3-0 you don’t know what to do. You feel like you’re helpless and you’re trying to prevent the loss, but to come back and win shows just immense character,” Lebeau said.