Up 2-0 in the second half, Peninsula looked firmly in control against the Hazen Highlanders in Tuesday night’s loser-out sub-district match. Seahawks senior David Rodriguez had scored two goals, the first on a fantastic strike from distance and the second on a stroke of luck, when the Highlanders goalie dropped a sure save.
But Hazen wouldn’t go away. With 20 minutes remaining, Hazen senior Luis Paga sent in the first goal. With seven minutes to go, junior Jorman Gonzales delivered the equalizer. Riding a huge wave of momentum, a game-winner felt inevitable — and senior Isaiah Blount delivered in the closing minute of the match at Franklin Pierce High School.
The Seahawks players were stunned and speechless after squandering the lead and being eliminated from postseason. Peninsula head coach Brian Lawson said the team simply didn’t execute on the defensive end.
“Just poor clearances, we weren’t organized,” Lawson said. “They exposed our gaps, and our spacing was off a little bit. The first one was a good goal; they finished a good goal. But you’ve got to be able to clear the ball, and we just didn’t do it today.”
As for what he would tell his team afterward, Lawson was at a bit of a loss.
“I don’t know,” Lawson said. “Tough loss. We’ll get it next year.”
The defensive meltdown overshadowed a nice game from Rodriguez, who nearly netted a hat trick for the Seahawks.
“He had an attack mentality today, and he wasn’t afraid to take people on,” Lawson said. “He got a couple good opportunities and finished them for us. I liked his attack mentality today, and he was huge for us.”
Before the season, Peninsula set a goal to reach the postseason this year. The Seahawks finished fourth in the SPSL 3A standings and achieved that goal. It’s not easy to look at the big picture after a heartbreaking loss, but Lawson likes the direction the program is headed.
“I’m feeling great,” Lawson said of the program’s trajectory. “We’ll lose three seniors, three obvious contributors. We’re a young team; we’re just going to continue to improve. As they continue to get familiar with one another, we’re only going to get better. We’ll move on and look to come back even more competitive and more improved next year.”