LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Saint Stephen's boys' soccer team knew it couldn't afford to make many mistakes against perennial power Tampa Prep.
Unfortunately the Falcons made just a tad too many and saw their season end in a 2-1 Class 1A-Region 2 semifinal loss to the defending state champion Terrapins on Saturday night at the Lakewood Ranch Premier Sports Complex.
"It was the usual one goal game with Tampa Prep," Saint Stephen's head coach Marc Jones said. "To be honest I couldn't be more proud of my guys. We were missing a lot of players because of injuries and had players out there who shouldn't have been playing with the injuries they were carrying. As soon as we lost a player (ejection) to go down to 10 players, we knew it would be tough and the writing was on the wall."
Saint Stephen's (16-3-1) took its only lead midway through the first half on a penalty kick by Toby Howell. But before the Falcons had a chance to catch their breath the Terrapins responded with a goal from Macsen Pritchard less than a minute later.
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"It was great to go a goal up. We've got the momentum, the boys are on a high, but you are most susceptible after scoring," Jones said. "Tampa Prep came right back at us and scored on an unbelievable shot, about 25 yards top corner. That shows the quality of the program they have. But for us it was deflating "
The coach had no complaints about the call that ejected Tim Nutter nor did he criticize his senior captain, who had two goals in the Falcons first-round region game.
"No complaints about the call. Tim is a great player and very competitive and just had a bit of a rush of blood to the head. He will learn from it," Jones said.
Tampa Prep (27-1-3) got the winning goal about midway through the second half when freshman Nick Brabant scored on a set play. It happened after Nutter's ejection.
"We kind of felt a set play was going to decide it either way and talked about that and picking up players to make sure we don't concede anything, but unfortunately it didn't work out for us," Jones said. "We had some set plays, but couldn't convert. We've been without a lot of our starters since Christmas, but our younger players came through and the future looks bright."
Saint Stephen's is 2-6 against Tampa Prep and has lost four of the last six games the teams faced each other.
The Falcons came out strong, were all over the Terrapins for the first 10 minutes of the match and had multiple corner kicks, but couldn't convert.
"Once we weathered that storm I thought we found our rhythm and that rhythm carried us pretty much for the rest of the game, " Tampa Prep head coach Doug Smith said. "They got a guy ejected and we were able to possess the ball. But even then we knew they would be dangerous on counters. It was huge for us to score right after they did especially for Macsen because he caused the foul on the PK. We haven't been down a lot this year."
The Falcons made it a rough night for Tampa Prep, which has won four state boys soccer titles in the last six years.
Saint Stephen's has won 13 district titles, seven region championships and one state title. Last year the Falcons were eliminated by Tampa Prep on penalty kicks in the Terrapins' closest game on their run to a state championship.