Bay High and St. Stanislaus have met in four consecutive Class 4A South State championship games, with St. Stanislaus won the prior three.
But Tuesday night was different. The Tigers’ determination paid off down the stretch as Jonovan Cucurullo’s two goals lifted the Tigers to a 2-1 victory.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Tigers coach Kelly Ross said. “Ethan (Loftin) and Bo (Bowman) and Aiden (Pohl) and Landon (Brady); all of our seniors have been in this game the past three years. They’ve worked so hard. To see our seniors go to State means a lot.”
The game was a typical South State championship game between these two teams. St. Stanislaus appeared to have more opportunities to score in the first half, getting approximately twelve shots on goal, barely missing on a few attempts.
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Bay High’s sophomore goalkeeper, John Bowman, was busy in the first, getting his hands on nine of those early attempts.
After a scoreless first half, St. Stanislaus converted in the first 20 seconds of the second half as Corbin Blanchard gave the Rockachaws the early momentum with a kick through traffic and into the net.
Momentum seemed to shift from one to the other until the midpoint of the half when Loftin went on the attack for Bay High (16-6-2), dribbling in front of the Tigers’ bench and dishing off to senior Bo Bowman on the right side of the St. Stanislaus goal. Bowman connected with Cucurullo in front of the goal, and he blasted a kick into the net to tie the game, 1-1.
“That’s the prettiest goal we’ve scored all year,” Ross said. “Completely selfless: Ethan dribbles into the inside and plays it out wide to Bo. Bo could have taken a shot, but Bo didn’t. Bo hit it across the front of the goal to Jono. The prettiest goal all year.”
Cucurullo out-jumped defenders and scored on a header above the St. Stanislaus goalie for the second goal to secure the win for Bay High with just under 14 minutes to play.
“It was amazing,” said Cucurullo. “When I heard the ball hit the net twice, I was so happy.”
John Bowman said that he was excited about the win, but he was also excited to be a part of his brother winning a championship.
“I think (Bo) gave me instincts to come out on the ball and everything like that,” he said. “It feels great. I made my brother proud. He came here three times in a row and and he lost. Tonight he got the win.”
“They came to win the game,” St. Stanislaus coach Danny Patton said of Bay High’s effort. “We played well enough to win, but we didn’t finish.”
St. Stanislaus’ season comes to an end with a 17-6-1 record.
The winner of Florence and Amory on Wednesday night will play Bay at 2 p.m. Saturday at Madison Central.