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From Under Dog to Top Dog

SBHS Boy’s Soccer team wins first state championship in school history.
Uncontrollable+euphoria+sweeps+through+the+South+Broward+Boys+Soccer+team+as+captain+Lucas+Costa+hoists+the+coveted+championship+trophy+high+into+the+air%2C+proudly+waving+the+Bulldog+flag+in+a+triumphant+display+of+school+spirit.+The+Bulldogs+beat+the+Viera+Hawks+1-0+in+a+second+overtime+to+take+the+FHSAA+State+Championship+title+for+division+6A.
Saarah Juman-Welch
Uncontrollable euphoria sweeps through the South Broward Boys Soccer team as captain Lucas Costa hoists the coveted championship trophy high into the air, proudly waving the Bulldog flag in a triumphant display of school spirit. The Bulldogs beat the Viera Hawks 1-0 in a second overtime to take the FHSAA State Championship title for division 6A.

Four years ago, the SBHS Boys Soccer team lost the state championship in a grueling overtime match against the nationally-ranked Niceville Eagles. It was the first time in school history that the team had made it to the state finals. It was a crushing loss.

On Saturday, March 2, the Bulldogs walked onto the field at the Spec Martin Stadium in Deland, Florida, once again the underdogs, to face off against last year’s state winners the Viera Hawks. But this time, when the Bulldogs walked off the field, they walked off champions.

In a brutal back-and-forth game that went into two overtimes, the Bulldogs wore down the Hawks to take the title with a 1-0 win.

“It was a hard game. And I’m glad we won,” said SBHS mid-fielder Lucas Costa. “We worked so hard for this.”

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True. The win didn’t come easily. As a matter of fact, it didn’t look too good for the Bulldogs in the first half.  South Broward spent most of their time guarding their goal as the Hawks sliced their way through the Bulldog’s defense taking shots and several corner kicks. But each time goal-keeper Ivan Fernandez thwarted their attempts to score.

“This one attempt they had a free kick and they played it short and it was going towards the post,” said Fernandez. “I saved that ball with the tip of my two fingers [sending it] over the crossbar.”

During half-time a brief downpour drenched the players, and the rain continued into the start of the second half. But rather than dampen their spirits, it seemed to rejuvenate the Bulldogs. They started to play more aggressively and the game quickly took on the feeling of a dogfight, with each team hip-checking, pushing, and elbowing, both sides racking up their share of yellow cards – nine for each team. At some point, a Hawks offensive player was bleeding from the mouth. Rumors swirled that he had lost a tooth.

“I don’t remember what happened, but I saw one of their players bleeding from their mouth and I looked down and saw blood on my wrist,” said SBHS senior and defender Brandon Rabasco. “I got outta there fast.”

With an edge on footwork, the Bulldogs began to take more control of the ball, sending it down to the Hawks’ territory and taking numerous shots at their goal. All attempts were soundly defended by Viera’s goalie Alvey Kaufman.

Towards the end of the second half, at the 7:50 mark, South Broward’s Costa collided with Viera’s Alden Gates. Costa took an elbow to the back of the head that created a bleeding gash. He was quickly taken off the field. But as South Broward’s team medic Anthony Baldochi was wrapping his head, Costa begged to be put back in the game.

“I got kind of dizzy, but I told Anthony the trainer: Just wrap my head. I’ll go back in,” said Costa.

At the end of regulation game time, the score was tied 0-0. Officials determined that the game would extend into two ten-minute overtime periods, which if neither team scored, would mean a series of penalty kicks. That did not sit well with SBHS coach Lionel Brown, and he made it clear to his team.

“There will be NO penalty kicks. No penalty kicks!” he bellowed at his players, gathered around him for a pre-overtime pep talk.

As the first 10 minutes of overtime ticked away, the Bulldogs surged into the Hawks’ territory, asserting their dominance. Costa, head wrapped in an ace bandage, took a few shots at Viera’s goal, but none made it in and the first overtime ended scoreless. The spector of penalty kicks loomed large.

At the beginning of the second overtime, tension in the stands was high on both sides. Shouts of: “Let’s go Bulldogs!” “Go Hawks!” “That was a foul!” and “He shouldn’t be playing with his head wrapped like that!” could be heard from the spectators.

In a pivotal moment, the Bulldogs advanced, with Costa delivering a pass to SBHS striker William Perdomo, whose initial shot bounced off a goal post and was deflected by Kaufman. But amidst the ensuing confusion, Perdomo lunged forward, redirecting the ball into the net. The South Broward crowd went wild with excitement.

“I received the ball from Velasco, turned and I saw Willy in the box, crossed it and it was a goal,” said Costa.

With the score 1-0, the Bulldogs knew they were on the edge of a historic moment. So, with only four minutes and 16 seconds left in the second overtime, they aggressively defended their goal area, Rabasco sending the ball deep into Hawk territory every time he kicked it with his football kicker’s punt return. The Hawks, notably dejected, couldn’t muster the strength to fight off the momentum of the Bulldogs.

When the final whistle blew ending the game, Costa ripped off his jersey over his bandage-wrapped head and ran shirtless across the field. The Bulldog’s bench emptied onto the field, as players and coaches embraced and jumped for sheer joy. It was the first state championship the Bulldogs had won in more than 30 years.

“We came here four years ago and lost in overtime. Ever since then, our mission was to come back,” said coach Brown. “I told them that once their belief matched mine, we would be able to take the championship. I feel ecstatic.”

This story was originally published on Bulldog Bark on March 5, 2024.