For two years Sacred Heart has waited for this moment. It was in the 2016-2017 season that they fell to St. Patrick 3-1 at Ridgeland High School when the now seniors were sophomores with little experience.
With added motivation, along with a yearning to go back-to-back, the Crusaders managed to do so behind two Heath Hogan goals in overtime to defeat St. Andrews Episcopal 3-1 and capture their fourth Class 1A/2A/3A State Championship.
"It was a tough match. I said it earlier. It wasn't our best match, but champions find a way to win. We just played and didn't do anything special. I’ve always said I’d rather be lucky than good, and today we were really lucky, but hey, back-to-back. This is where it all started for my seniors three seasons ago. We got here [three years ago] and didn’t perform like we wanted to, but we finally got over the hump. Congrats to St. Andrews, though. They kept fighting. For us, to be here three years in a row is something special,” said Sacred Heart head coach Joe Falla Jr.
Sacred Heart took the lead over St. Andrews in the 23rd minute as freshman Ashton Ware booted a goal into the net to give Sacred Heart a 1-0 lead.
Neither team found another goal in the first half, but in the second half and 53rd minute overall, senior Caleb Young tied things up for the Saints as he scored to bring the score 1-1. That score held in regulation as neither team could put a ball in the net, despite several close calls.
“We played a pretty good first half but we went flat in the second half. They took it to us in the second half. My message after the regulation was to go ‘play your game and do what got you here,’ and they did,” said Falla Jr.
In overtime, the Crusaders amped up their energy, particularly senior striker Heath Hogan as he scored the go-ahead goal in the 83rd minute [third minute of overtime] to break the 1-1 tie. Hogan sealed the game in the 17th minute of overtime to put Sacred Heart up 3-1.
St. Andrews junior Tanner Hendrix scored in the closing seconds of overtime to draw within 3-2 but it was not enough as Sacred Heart held onto possession as the final whistle sounded.
“Honestly on the first goal I was in the right place at the right time. It is always nice to have someone to put balls in the back of the net and it just so happened that I was that guy. It was positioning that helped. On the second goal, I read the backline. I saw two people stepping in on Bennett Gibson who assisted the goal, and I was there. I noticed the keeper was off his line, so I took the shot and got the goal,” explained Hogan on his two overtime goals.
Sacred Heart athletes have devoted their season to a student who passed away over the summer, Carson Hall, who Hogan said he thought of before the contest.
“Before the game, I had my tape on, but as the game went on, it slowly fell off through the sweat. Every time I score I look up and thank him because I know he is there. I know he would want us to be here, and he would be here cheering us on. He would be the loudest fan out here. I’m proud to say that we did this, this year for him,” said Hogan.
Sacred Heart finishes their season 15-2-3 overall and this is their second title in three-straight appearances.