Luca al-Habash faced the Cardinal Newman goal after whiffing on a kick that would have been an easy score Satruday at Cardinals Stadium.
Two minutes after a scoreless first half of the SCISA 3A championship game, the Hammond forward turned swiftly from the net, his body cringing from the mental pain of missing.
“I was just like, keep it up, keep it up,” al-Habash said. “Get those chances, get those chances.”
Al-Habash erased his anguish about 30 seconds later with the opening score of what turned out to be a wild second half.
The Skyhawks took a 2-0 lead, only to see the Cardinals even the score at 2-2 with less than 20 minutes to play.
A second Al-Habash goal at the 66:48 mark, and Hammond’s defensive effort the rest of the way secured the Skyhawks a 3-2 victory and their first soccer state title since 1990.
“I’m overcome with emotions,” Hammond coach Adrian Pinasco said. “Cardinal Newman is a phenomenal team, but this team is a fantastic team. I could not be more proud of our players.
"When we lost last year to Porter-Gaud, we felt like we were eight minutes away, but at that point, we said to ourselves, ‘May 12, May 12.’ From there, the players believed it.”
Pinasco, whose team lost to Cardinal Newman earlier in the season, but beat the Cardinals 1-0 on April 13, said falling to Cardinal Newman helped the Skyhawks learn how to win a championship.
“The players were devastated,” Pinasco said after their first game against their rival. “I asked the players, ‘do you think that was enough to win a state championship? And they said no.’”
Al-Habash opened the scoring with a goal at the 42:41 mark, with an assist from John Bailey Moore. About 10 minutes after his assist, Moore kicked in a goal as the ball was passed to him in the box at the 51:16 mark.
Cardinal Newman got a goal back as Grayson Barber scored after colliding with Hammond goalkeeper James Rungee in front of the box at 54:10.
At 61:35 Will Chontos fired a ball into the net to even the score at 2.
At that moment, it appeared momentum had swung over to the Cardinals, who seemed poised for a title win.
“Keep the composure,” Pinasco said he told the players . “I didn’t see them fall apart, we lost our composure a little bit on defense, but still the game was there, we didn’t lose our edge. They just scored, and I told them to keep playing.”
Five minutes later, al-Habash headed in his second goal of the night, off a Meade Fowler free kick, to give Hammond a 3-2 lead at the 66:48 mark. It was later scored as an own goal after the match.
“It’s the greatest feeling ever, I’m telling you” al-Habash said. “The greatest feeling ever. I’ve come all the way from Germany, from Berlin, to score those two goals and win the championship."