Cathedral comeback falls short in OT loss

Published 1:09 am Wednesday, January 27, 2010

NATCHEZ — Cathedral has made a living making comebacks this season, so coming back once against Sacred Heart in the first round of the Class 1A-3A playoffs wasn’t a problem.

But a second comeback attempt proved just too much.

The Green Wave fought back from a 4-0 deficit in the second half to send the game to overtime, but Jacob Mercier’s goal off a free kick in the extra period gave Sacred Heart a 5-4 victory.

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“The end result is tough,” Cathedral coach Paul Burns said. “But I’m so proud of them. We were down 4-0 with 20 minutes left and didn’t quit.”

Burns was slightly mistaken. Only 16 minutes actually remained when Hunter Foster scored to give Cathedral its first sign of life in a game that had been dominated by Sacred Heart to that point.

Foster’s goal seemed to light a fire under the Green Wave players, as they frantically pushed forward to score more goals in a race against the clock.

Foster kept the comeback going when he was fouled in the box, forcing a penalty kick.

Cole Mann calmly converted to make the score 4-2 with 14 minutes remaining.

Seven minutes after that the Green Wave cut the Crusader lead to just one goal thanks to some great teamwork.

Foster sent a long high pass across the face of the goal that Brent Gaude headed back in front of the goal right to Mann, who headed it in the back of the net with just seven minutes remaining.

Cathedral didn’t let up the pressure, and with just three minutes remaining in regulation, Aaron White tied the score with a header off a Green Wave corner kick.

“We changed our formation (after getting down 4-0),” Burns said. “It’s no good defending when you’re losing. So we moved a defender (Gaude) forward to midfield. We really had nothing to lose. We got that first goal, and that seemed to energize us.”

As regulation ended, and the two teams got ready for overtime, it looked as if Cathedral had all the momentum and would win the game in the extra time.

But Sacred Heart coach Joe Falla had a message for his team.

“I told them it was gut check time,” Falla said. “We had come too far and played too hard for it to end like this. I told them that good teams find a way to win, and they did it again. They stepped up to the plate and made it happen.”

And it happened in the seventh minute of the first 10-minute overtime session.

A Cathedral hand ball gave Sacred Heart a free kick about 10 yards outside the box directly in front of the goal, and Mercier hit a laser right over the outstretched fingertips of Cathedral goalkeeper Aaron Sandifer into the back of the net.

After Mercier’s goal, the Crusaders had to hang on and prevent Cathedral from making another comeback.

And that’s just what the Crusaders did, playing the kind of defense they played in the first 64 minutes of the game when they kept the Green Wave scoreless.

Cathedral had a couple of chances to tie the score in the overtime periods, but couldn’t put them home.

“It just didn’t happen for us,” Burns said. “We had chances to score a couple more goals, but couldn’t put them in. Sacred Heart has got a great team. If they’re not the best team we played all year, they’re 1A.”

And the Crusaders showed why they are so tough in the first 64 minutes of the game, as they played nearly flawless soccer to open up a 4-0 lead.

Sacred Heart struck quickly, as Blake Moore scored a goal off a throw in just four minutes into the first half.

The Crusaders added two more goals before halftime, as Jon Moreno scored a penalty kick goal in the 16th minute and Tyler Flathau scored off a corner kick in the 24th minute.

Sacred Heart continued the onslaught early in the second half, as Mercier dribbled down the right side of the field, beat two defenders and scored in the near corner of the net.

The game was headed towards a rout at that point, but Fosters’ goal a few minutes late swung the pendulum completely in the other direction.

Cathedral ends its season with a 15-3 record while Sacred Heart improved to 12-3 and will play St. Patrick in the quarterfinals of the playoffs Saturday.

But if the second half had lasted just a few minutes longer, Burns thinks it would be the Green Wave continuing forward in the playoffs instead of the Crusaders.

“I wish it had lasted just two or three more minutes,” Burns said. “The end of (regulation) was more helpful to them than us. They got a chance to rest and talk to their coach. But we flat put it on them for about 20 minutes.”