By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
CAPE CORAL — It’s hard enough to win a game a goal down.
It’s even harder a man down.
The Port Charlotte High School boys soccer team faced both adversities against Cape Coral in Wednesday night’s District 3A-13 semifinal and couldn’t overcome either.
Jeremy Jimenez and Jose Parra each scored first-half goals for the Seahawks, who held off a late push from the Pirates before Juan Parra put the game away with a goal in stoppage time for a 3-1 victory.
Joel Requena scored Port Charlotte’s lone goal in the 48th minute when he headed in a free kick from Noah Couto to cut Cape Coral’s lead to 2-1. But the Seahawks (14-5-4) were aided by a questionable call in the 57th minute when Couto received his second yellow card for what looked like a flop, forcing the Pirates (14-6-2) to play with 10 men for the final 23 minutes.
That proved too tall of a task.
“We tried our best with ten players in the second half,” Port Charlotte coach Joe Roca said. “I thought we were going to come out of it. It’s definitely hard to win a game like that. We know we’re the better team, but the point is it’s really hard to come out of that. It’s really tough. And I probably had the best eight seniors this year that could have done it.”
Port Charlotte only had two other chances to tie the game after Couto left. The first came in the 66th minute when Jeremiah Ruth sent a free kick over the net from about 40 yards out. The next was in the 77th minute, when Tariq Chase dribbled the ball into the penalty box from the left side and sent his shot just over the right corner and out of bounds.
The Seahawks outshot the Pirates 15-10 in a very physical game that saw six yellow cards handed out.
“It’s hard when you play the same team three times,” Cape Coral coach Aldo Nardiello said. “We knew they’re a very athletic team. With how postseason is, what happened before is irrelevant. I warned the guys it was going to be a tight, tough, close match. I knew it was going to be that. It’s no surprise that they gave us this type of battle. I expected it.”
It didn’t look like it would play out that way early as the Seahawks scored less than two minutes into the match when Jacob Baker sent a throw-in into the penalty box and Jeremy Jimenez put his foot on it past Port Charlotte goalkeeper Hunter Cole, who finished with seven saves. The Seahawks went up 2-0 in the 34th minute when Parra curved a corner kick into the opposite corner of the net, just over the outstretched arms of Cole.
But it was the first goal that Roca said really cost his team.
“They caught us off guard with that first goal,” he said. “Nobody was on the inside of the goal post and that’s something that we work on everyday. That goal happened because nobody covered that side of the goal. If somebody had covered that side then everything would have been okay.”
It was a tough farewell for the Pirates, who had to say goodbye to eight seniors. Many were in tears, including Couto, who was distraught he couldn’t finish his final game.
“”I’m very proud of my team. This is the best team I’ve ever coached and I hope I have an opportunity again to coach a team just like this one,” Roca said.
Antonio Garcia Castrao finished with five saves for Cape Coral, which will host the district championship on Friday against Mariner, which upset top-seeded Cypress Lake in the other semifinal.