The Cougars' 2-0 lead turns into a 3-2 loss to Parkland Douglas in the Class 6A final.
By STEVE LEE
Published February 22, 2004
FORT LAUDERDALE - Durant has qualified for the playoffs in eight of its nine seasons but never had been this close to a state championship.
And unlike their previous three state berths, the Cougars finally reached the final.
A storybook finish to Durant's best season, however, still lacks a happy ending after Parkland Douglas' 3-2 comeback victory in Saturday's Class 6A title game at Lockhart Stadium.
"We set a goal of going to state," Durant coach Dick Sheffield said. "That's the expectation, and we expect (players) to live up to those standards."
Douglas (28-1-1) won its second straight title and is 56-1-2 during the past two seasons.
Durant (19-5-3) entered the final with a 10-game win streak, and No. 11 seemed likely early. But Douglas rallied from a two-goal deficit by scoring in the waning seconds of the first half and twice in a three-minute span of the second half.
"I was very good at 2-0. I was very angry at 2-1," Sheffield said. "That goal at the end of the first half just pumped them up a little bit."
The Eagles' last two goals came after Durant sweeper Emily Stutzman sustained a left knee injury and did not return. That forced Sheffield to juggle his lineup, and Douglas did not take long to capitalize.
In the 51st minute, Nikita Waller dribbled down the right sideline and crossed to Toni-Marie Hudson, who redirected the ball past Durant goalkeeper Megan Bowers for her team-leading 44th goal.
Brianna Schooley's 14-yard header, off a cross from Jackie Giffon, gave Douglas the lead in the 54th minute.
Sheffield cited two reasons for his team's defeat.
"Going from a 2-0 lead to 2-1, that's the major No. 1," Sheffield said. "Losing Emily is major No. 2."
In the 40th minute, Douglas defender Maria Maneiro fielded Jackie Giffon's corner kick and passed back to Giffon on a nice give-and-go. Giffon drilled a one-bouncer from 20 yards into the left corner past a lunging Bowers.
Durant's Gabi Rivera scored her team-leading 32nd goal, and eighth of the postseason, in the 19th minute. Rivera sent it into the right corner from 6 yards off Alicia Tirelli's pass through a wall of defenders.
Mandy Anton doubled the Cougars lead in the 32nd minute by breaking in alone after a steal and shooting high to the right side past Fiorella Lavena. It was Anton's second goal of the season.