PASADENA — As if momentum and the scoreboard weren’t enough of an obstacle for the Flintridge Prep boys’ soccer team Friday afternoon, then a holey goal certainly sent the Rebels’ prospects spiraling.
Even so, visiting Flintridge Prep rallied for two second-half goals and came up just short of a monumental comeback versus Pasadena Poly, falling, 3-2, at Babcock Field in a meeting of the league’s last two undefeated squads.
The setback dropped Flintridge Prep’s record to 11-4-2 overall and 3-1-2 in league, while Poly improved to 8-3-4, 1-0-3.
“Poly played well and they got a hold of some momentum and that translated into three goals quickly,” Flintridge Prep Coach AJ Yates said. “What was it, three goals in the first 15 minutes of the [second] half? I know the group of guys I have and knew we were going to compete and we competed through the end of the game. We just came up a little short.”
Friday’s match permanently changed in the 49th minute when a cross from Poly senior striker Ali Kamal was headed toward goal by junior halfback Dylan Hanel.
The shot passed by Rebels sophomore goalie Hamilton Evans (seven saves) into the corner of the goal as Hanel and his teammates celebrated.
Yet, the ball never touched any part of the net and was initially ruled a missed shot much to the disbelief of Panthers Coach Doug Jolly.
“I had a bad angle on it, but our fans and our athletic director, who had a good angle, said the ball went in,” Jolly said. “I called my player over immediately and asked him if it was a goal. If it wasn’t, we didn’t want that to count as a goal. He said it went in and I backed him up.”
After some discussion by both Yates and Jolly individually with the head referee and an inspection of the net, the official reversed his own call and ruled the shot went through a hole in the net and awarded a goal to the Panthers.
The score was a debilitating blow, as Kamal netted two mores goals (assists from Jack Queen and Ben Hubsch) within a seven-minute span in propelling the Panthers to a 3-0 lead by the 56th minute.
With seemingly everything against the Rebels, Flintridge Prep picked itself up from a 17-4 shots differential against it and started to press on offense.
“At that point, we were losing, 3-0,” Yates said. “So, what’s the difference between losing 3-0 or 5-0? We changed some things up to get back in the game.”
One such move by Yates was to insert senior Daniel Enzminger into set pieces, which immediately paid dividends when a corner kick from the halfback was headed in by senior midfielder Bryce Delgado in the 62nd minute.
“I wasn’t sure if I knocked in the goal or not,” Delgado said. “I knew it was either going to be me or Brian Heintz. This was by far the best game we played in terms of playing 80 minutes. We gave our all.”
Ten minutes later, the Rebels further tightened the screws when senior forward Michael Weinstein delivered on a majestic 20-yard shot perfectly angled into the top right of the goal and past a leaping save attempt from Poly goalie Brian Ward.
“I wasn’t really trying to do anything,” Weinstein said. “I got the ball down in the corner. I was trying to find my teammates in the center, get a cross in and I got a little magic.”
Unfortunately for Prep, the shot was the last for the squad, as the Panthers escaped with a hard-fought win that began with a questionable score.
“I think it was a goal and I’m not going to second-guess the referee,” Yates said. “I wish they would have known and I wish stuff like that gets taken care of before the game. I don’t think there should ever be any place for doubt for something like that in a league game that means a lot.”