For the first time in school history, St. Patrick will play for a soccer state championship after beating the St. Andrew's Saints 2-0 Wednesday night at St. Patrick High School.
The Fighting Irish will play either Forest or Southeast Lauderdale Saturday at 11:30 a.m. for the boys 1A-2A-3A State Championship.
"I'm very happy," St. Patrick head coach Mario Camps said. "Man, it's a good feeling."
Clark Copponex broke the 0-0 tie off a free kick eight minutes into the second half and Stephen Alexander's goal iced the game with less than five minutes in the game.
"We had been pushing for about 50 minutes and we just kept going at it," Copponex said. "We got a chance with the free kick about 20 yards out and I saw the opening and decided to take the shot."
Copponex's shot slipped by the defender's wall and went in just inside the right post.
"What can I say? Clark is the one that has that cannonball," Camps said. "We used the wind to our advantage and that's why he was able to see it through."
After leading most of the second half, the Irish's defense played mostly back to prevent an equalizing goal when a defender cleared the ball down the field to set up Alexander's goal.
After receiving the ball, he battled off one defender as he approached the 18-yard box and scored to the goalkeeper's left.
"We just had great through balls throughout the game and I got the chance thanks to our passing," said Alexander with tears in his eyes. "I was able to put it away but it wasn't thanks to me, it was thanks to the team. We really played with a lot of heart."
Alexander missed most of the season with a hamstring injury, returning in the second round of the playoffs against St. Joseph.
Neither team could get anything going offensively in first half with St. Patrick only getting off three shots to St. Andrew's two.
But that changed in the second half when the Irish forced the Saints' goalkeeper to make eight-second half saves, but that proved to not be enough for St. Andrew's.
Over the years St. Patrick and St. Andrew's have formed a playoff rivalry, with the Saints having the upper hand on the Irish.
Two years ago, the Saints eliminated St. Patrick in the second round of the playoffs.
"They have knocked us out from the second round of the playoffs, they have knocked us out from South State and now for the first time in 18 years we played on the Coast, on our turf, with our people and this is the result,'' Camps said.