LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — On more than one occasion this season, including its most recent win on Friday over Alemany High, the St. Francis soccer team has used a last-minute goal to propel its way to a victory and send an opponent walking off the field stunned and dejected.
But the Golden Knights, who scored late to pull even with visiting Chaminade and were charging hard for yet another late game-winner, found themselves on the other side of the equation following Thursday's Mission League contest at Friedman Field after the Eagles scored inside of injury time in the second half to hand St. Francis its first league defeat, 2-1.
"I don't know if we were so eager to win that guys were pushing when they should have been dropping, but we just didn't have enough guys back and we left a guy wide open on the counter-attack," St. Francis Coach Glen Appels said of the Eagles' winning goal on a breakaway with numbers. "It's disappointing and what happens is the more the offense misses, the more pressure there is on the defense not to give up the off goal."
Chaminade (6-4-3, 4-2 in league) came in riding league shutout wins over Harvard-Westlake and Crespi and kept St. Francis off the board for more than 64 minutes before Billy McCreary provided a tying tally. Jake LaPorte's free kick from midfield was headed forward from 20 yards out by Sean Fitzpatrick into the goal box, where McCreary finished it with another header to break a frustrating drought for the Knights (8-7, 4-1).
"We had 20 chances to score a goal," Appels said. "To leave all those chances, a team as good as Chaminade is going to make you pay for it.
"When we got it wide, we were dangerous, we had chances going across the front of the goal and we just didn't finish them."
St. Francis kept the pressure on and had its chances down the stretch, including a header and a shot by Thomas Banks from inside the penalty box on separate attacks in the last three minutes.
But it paid the price when CJ Sheltz bent a long pass upfield around his defender that Karam Gill crossed to Nick Barbarino on the back post for the go-ahead score.
"We've caught some teams in the last minute, so I guess it's our turn to deal with that," Appels said.
Chaminade took the lead for the first time in the 24th minute on a 45-yard free kick, on which Jamie Bent finished the play with a header off a cross from Gill.
"Their first goal we were terrible on defense," Appels said. "[Our guys] should have marked and they didn't and our keeper didn't come, so it was just too easy. [Bent] just came in by himself and when you leave a good player with that head ball, he's going to score every single time."