Hawks fall to Melbourne in district boys soccer final on penalty kicks

In happier times ... Viera players surround senior Marshall Irwin (center) after his goal gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead over Melbourne in the Class 4A, District 6 championship game Friday night. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Melbourne would come back to tie the game at 1-1, then win on penalty kicks.

Moments after a heartbreaking loss to archrival Melbourne in the Class 4A, District 6 championship game, Viera High boys soccer coach Cory Collins emphasized one thing to his players:

The season’s not over.

"We’ve just got to look on to the next game. There’s no point in dwelling on this one," Collins said after the Hawks saw their title hopes dashed by a 2-1 (3-1) defeat on penalty kicks.

"It sucks to lose like that, but we’ve got another game to play. We can either let this affect us negatively, or we can move forward and forget about it."

Viera (13-3-2) will return to action Thursday night (Jan. 29) at 7 in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals on the road against Oak Ridge (16-4-3), which won its first-ever district championship Friday night when it upset heavily-favored Lake Nona 1-0 in the title game.

Melbourne will host Lake Nona on Thursday.

Should the Hawks and Bulldogs both win, they would meet again on Feb. 3 in the regional semifinals at Melbourne.

That would be something to see given the way the teams played Friday night.

Viera got a sensational effort from goalkeeper Jacob Kutcher, who came up big time and time again for the Hawks, who were under constant pressure by Melbourne’s offense.

Despite the Bulldogs’ determined effort, it was the Hawks who got on board first when senior Marshall Irwin scored with 32:10 remaining in regulation.

Ten minutes later, Kutcher made a diving, one-handed stop on a Melbourne goal attempt and it appeared the Hawks might be able to hang on for the win. However, Melbourne was able to score the equalizer with 9:54 remaining and after no other goals were scored in regulation or two 10-minute overtime periods, the game went to penalty kicks.

Viera missed on three of its four attempts, while Melbourne was good on three of its four tires to earn the victory.

"They had a game plan going in. They were going to go long, and that’s what they did," Collins said. "They played to their strengths. It took us a long first half to finally figure out what we needed to do to play to our strengths, and when we did that, we go the goal.

"If we did that from the start of the game, maybe it’s a different game, I don’t know. It was a scrappy game, a typical high school playoff game."