A second-half goal by senior Erik Estrada tied the game at 1 with 22 minutes to play Saturday, but St. Dominic struck in the final six minutes to beat Carthage 2-1 in the Class 2 boys soccer state championship game at Blue Springs South High School.
The Tigers, who finish as the second-best team in the state, became the first Carthage boys soccer team to compete for a state title.
"It's huge," Carthage head coach Jacob Osborne said. "We've never had a team play in a state title game for soccer. We've made it to the final four one other time, but unfortunately they weren't able to get a win. We accomplished something that had never been done before and they've got a lot to be proud of for that."
After the game was finished and the trophies hoisted, Osborne and the rest of the Tigers gathered in one corner of the field and reflected on a 22-9 campaign that ended with Carthage allowing just two goals in four playoff games. Osborne and an emotional group of seniors exchanged hugs before leaving the field for the last time this fall.
"They're disappointed," Osborne said. "Right here at the very end, you can see the emotional side of things with this senior group. They're very close with each other. It's a great, great group of kids. They've got a special place to me as well since they were my freshman group whenever I came in as head coach, so I got to see them all the way through, that's why it's a little emotional right now. It's hard. Not having them around anymore is going to be different."
St. Dominic, which finished the year 22-6, scored late in the first half with the wind at its back to take a 1-0 lead into the break.
The lead stood until Estrada scored with an assist from senior Ismael Serratos to tie the game midway through the second half. St. Dominic, though, managed to punch it in with 5:55 left on the clock, and the Tigers were unable to score before time expired.
"I couldn't be any prouder of the way we played," Osborne said. "Even in this game, I thought we had it. In the second after we got the goal and started to get momentum, I thought we had the momentum and I really did think we were going to finish it off. We just got unlucky there with about five minutes left. We tried to clear the ball and it hit a kid's back and just dropped right to another kid's feet and he hit a great shot."
After the game, Osborne marveled at the progress made by the team from the beginning of the season through the playoff run.
"Their growth from the beginning of the season was amazing," he said. "We had nine seniors last year. We still expected to be a good, solid team this year but we had a lot of spots to fill. The beginning of the season, the first month or two months, we were very inconsistent. Finally, towards the beginning of October, we found our stride, found our identity and really started growing then. That's when I started thinking we were very close to being a dangerous team and we were able to break through."
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