LA CAÑADA — It is a milestone that has been 25 years in the making. Unfortunately, that milestone will have to wait for now.
When the St. Francis High soccer team faced Alemany in a Mission League opener Wednesday, coach Glen Appels was sitting at 399 career wins. A win would give the Appels his historic 400th victory, a remarkable feat for any coach.
It looked as it St. Francis was going to deliver that milestone to its coach, holding a one-goal lead heading into the final minute of play. But the visiting Warriors tallied a goal in the final 30 seconds and both teams walked away with a 2-2 tie.
“Hopefully the win will come some time this year,” Appels said after the tough loss.
It’s likely that win will come sooner rather than later, as Appels has the reputation of getting the most out of his teams while making St. Francis a winning and respected program. Along with winning CIF Southern Section championships in 1996, 2001 and 2003, Appels also guided a team to a Southern California Regional championship in 2009.
The loss was hard on some of the St. Francis (3-4-2) players, who wanted to get the historic win for their coach.
“Only a few of us knew about the 400 that coach was going for and I’m disappointed that we didn’t get it for him,” junior captain Benjamin Gabella said. “And to lose it in the final seconds is pretty tough.
“But we play every game with heart and we’re going to come back from this and hopefully we can get a win in the next one.”
The Golden Knights will get that chance Monday when they take on Harvard-Westlake in a Mission League contest.
The match against Alemany (4-3-2) was an uneven affair for St. Francis. After not generating much offense in the first half and falling behind by a goal, the Golden Knights picked up the pace in the second half and dominated play. They were able to score two goals in the first 16 minutes of the second half to grab the lead.
The first came in the 44th minute. Following a throw-in by Frankie Veiga, the ball careened out to Paolo Ramirez, who one-timed it from 35 yards out, the ball coming to rest in the comer of the goal, just out of the reach of keeper Andrew Mendoza.
Tied at 1, the Golden Knights surged ahead at the 56th minute on a fine play. Gabella lined up to take a free kick 50 yards away from the Alemany goal. He delivered a perfectly placed ball that found Veiga just outside of the goalmouth. Veiga went up and headed the ball in to put the Golden Knights on top, 2-1.
“I just thought that they played a lot harder in the first half than we did and it really all came down to hustle,” Appels said. “When we decided to play as hard as they did, that’s when we started to play well in that second half and things started going our way.”
With the victory seemingly in hand, the Warriors made one final offensive push in the final minute. After a scrum in front of the St. Francis goal, the Golden Knights weren’t able to clear the ball and Alemany put in the tying score.
“I will have to look at the film to see how that goal got in there,” Appels said. “They had a kid who stumbled and fell over at the edge of the box and at that point all we needed to do is get one clearance and the game’s over.”
Alemany controlled the first half and went ahead, 1-1, in the 20th minute on a goal by Miguel Acevedo.