LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — It's a "heartbroken" feeling the St. Francis High boys' soccer team had already felt several times, and the Golden Knights experienced it again Monday.
Holding a one-goal lead and two minutes away from vaulting into a tie for first place in the Mission League, the Golden Knights allowed a goal in the 78th minute and finished in a 1-1 tie against visiting Chaminade.
"I'm heartbroken," St. Francis Coach Glen Appels said. "We didn't mark somebody and they headed it in. It's the third time we lost a goal in the last two minutes this season and had to settle for a tie."
A win would have set up a league championship showdown at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday between St. Francis (7-7-8, 6-1-4) and Loyola (18-4-5, 7-1-3), which had a bye in league Monday.
The tie still allows the Golden Knights to claim their first league title since 2008 with a victory at Loyola, but it also means that St. Francis could finish anywhere between a tie for first or fourth.
"We can't lick our wounds too long here," said Appels, whose team is unbeaten in its past 10 matches and hasn't lost in more than a month. "The bright side is we still have a chance [to win league]. The depressing side is, it should've been over."
A goal by St. Francis defender Luke Hatanaka in the 28th minute appeared like it was going to be enough for a Golden Knight victory.
Hatanaka took a pass from Zach Montes and one-timed a shot from 35 yards into the right corner of the net for a St. Francis lead.
"There was some room for him to go forward in the open space," Appels said. "It was perfect. It should've been enough."
Even Hatanaka, who was all smiles at halftime after being congratulated by his teammates for scoring his only goal of the season, was dejected after the match. Minutes earlier, C.J. Sheltz of Chaminade (11-3-6, 5-2-4) headed in a pass from Matt Rosendo, beating goalkeeper Luca Coppola to the right of the net for the tie.
"We had a couple of games like this when we have let up in the last few minutes," Hatanaka said. "That's when they took the opportunity and scored.
"They got a look and sent the ball in. It was a lack of effort and communication."
Chaminade Coach Jesse Servin — whose team tied the Golden Knights, 2-2, on Jan. 19 — said he had the better team.
"We dominated possession for most of the game," said Servin, whose team outshot the Golden Knights, 15-9, including 5-4 on goal. "We have a good group of kids.
"We have to play the entire 80 minutes. It's kind of the way soccer goes, especially in this league."
Chaminade has an opportunity to climb into second place in league while the Golden Knights meet the defending champion Cubs on Wednesday. By then, Hatanaka said he hopes the Golden Knights have learned from their mistakes.
"Hopefully, when we're at Loyola, we take the lessons from this and we fix them for the league championship," he said.