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St. Francis stunned in the second round

Soccer: Late St. Francis lead is expunged before stunning overtime loss on controversial goal.

February 21, 2012|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com
  • St. Francis High goalkeeper Luca Coppola pleads with the referee after an overtime golden goal was awarded to Ventura on Tuesday.
St. Francis High goalkeeper Luca Coppola pleads with… (Tim Berger, Los…)

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — For more than 65 minutes of game time, St. Francis High's soccer team was holding a winning ticket for a trip to the CIF Southern Section Division I quarterfinals.

But then a familiar storyline reared its ugly head, as the Golden Knights saw a late lead, along with their ticket to the next round, slip away on a late regulation goal before an overtime tally by visiting Ventura that was as controversial as it was heartbreaking brought St. Francis' season to a halt with a 2-1 sudden-death loss on Friday afternoon at Friedman Field.

"We had a chance to put it away and it just escaped," said St. Francis Coach Glen Appels.

In the 86th minute, Ventura's Kevin De Los Santos flicked in the game-winner off a deep throw-in. The shot passed over St. Francis junior goalie Luca Coppola, but didn't get past junior defender Luke Hatanaka, who deftly kicked the airborne attempt away. Though it appeared briefly that the side official ruled the entire ball did not go past the goalline, a brief officials' conference followed before a large celebration by Ventura as it was signaled a goal by the officials.

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"[The sideline official] had his flag down and I thought he was saying no goal," Appels said. "That's a tough call to make in sudden death and you've gotta be pretty sure the whole ball went over."

Said Ventura Coach Todd Tackett: "My guys — I couldn't see it, of course — said it did go in."

And, of course, Appels said his Golden Knights said just the opposite, though he admitted they were obviously looking at it through "brown and gold glasses."

But the previous 85 minutes of play for the brown and gold left plenty to ponder, as well.

Among a string of three stellar scoring chances inside the game's first seven minutes, senior midfielder Eric Bocanegra made a dazzling run up the far sideline before sending a diagonal pass into the center of the field for a streaking Matt Laterza and the senior forward swiftly booted in a low shot for a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the match.

However, a St. Francis squad that had seen too many wins turn into ties and ties into losses after allowing late-game scores during a third-place Mission League run would see the pattern continue in the playoffs when Erick Sandoval headed in a free kick with 7:30 remaining on the clock to lock the game at 1.

Appels, though, said it was hardly a case of the same story, rather the tale of a Golden Knights team that turned into the walking wounded.

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