After Friday night’s victory against Out-Of-Door Academy in the Class 1A-District 7 final, Saint Stephen’s head coach Marc Jones will need to buy another trophy case.
The Falcons (16-2-1) collected their 18th district title, slipping past a scrappy and determined Thunder team, 3-1, in front of a loud and frantic home crowd.
“That was a tight game; we usually do a better job of scoring, but you have to give ODA credit for playing so hard,” Jones said. “Luckily there, our forwards were able to make some plays for us down the stretch.”
Senior Alex Virgilio had a shot from about 20 feet out that hit the left cross bar, but transfer Danny Kukanza was there to tap it in giving Saint Stephen’s a 1-0 lead in the 70th minute.
“I saw the ball in front of the net and I knew I had to finish it,” Kukanza said. “It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had, and that got us going.”
Following a yellow card on , Maksuts Schukenovs scored the Thunders’ first goal against Saint Stephen’s in more than two years.
“That goal really sent us on a high, gave our guys extreme confidence,” ODA coach George Leicht said. “We know we can beat those guys, now it’s just about actually doing it.”
In the previous two meetings, the Falcons outscored the Thunder (10-7-2) 12-0, but with some adjustments and strong play from Mateo Romano, the Out-of-Door Academy had a shot.
“We moved some guys upfront around, and they did a great job of executing defensively,” Leicht said. “Mateo was great for us and kept us in the game with his eight saves, he really grew as a player tonight.”
In the 80th minute, Virgilio found Nico Colacci close to the net, where he was able to give the Falcons a 2-1 lead.
Moments later Ben Whorf iced the game with a goal of his own, giving his squad a home game in the first round of regionals next week.
If both teams handle business and win in the regional quarterfinals, they could face off again.
Canterbury at Saint Stephen’s, 7 p.m.
ODA at Community School of Naples, 7 p.m.