Knights fall in regional soccer final

Posted on 07 March 2019 by LeslieM


By Gary Curreri

Highlands Christian Academy coach Davidson Loriston Sr. looked back at his 2018-19 boys soccer campaign with pride.

After not making the postseason last year, the Knights not only made the postseason, they won the district title and advanced all the way to the Class 1A regional final before losing 2-1 to host Lakeland Christian. It was their first trip to the regional finals in 19 years.

Along the way, Highlands Christian (11-8-2) needed penalty kicks to defeat St. John Paul II Academy for the district championship and,two games later, needed double overtime to defeat the Eagles again.

Highlands Christian lost in the regional quarterfinals in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, and in 2017 to Trinity Christian, 1-0, when they had last made the postseason. The Knights also lost in the regional semifinals in 2004, 2005, 2014 and 2016.

“It was amazing,” said Loriston Sr., who moved up to head varsity coach after coaching the middle school program at the school. “I told the kids that we had to work and do our part and God would take care of us. They all bought into it. 

The team received strong play from goalkeeper Daryl Carney, who logged 1,180 minutes played and posted four shutouts along with forward Jonathan Pereria, a junior, finished as the team’s leading scorer with 24 goals, and 3 assists. Pereria scored the lone goal against Lakeland Christian in the regional final. Carney left the regional final with a concussion just 15 minutes in, which also hurt the Knights’ chances.

Loriston Sr. said he didn’t even talk about winning the district championship.

“Honestly, when I met with the team, I told them my goal was not to win district,” he said. “I told them my goal was to make it to the final four. From there, the kids believed it.

“My team overcame a lot of things during the season,” Loriston Sr. said. “There were times when we just sat down and talked. I told them to worry about the things they could control and nothing else. I told them not to worry about it. This is your stress relief. Just go out and have fun.”

He said the team had two rallying points. The first when Thiago Nery was lost for the season to an injury and the second when they dropped a 3-0 decision to St. John Paul II Academy at home.

“After that game,” Loriston Sr. said, “we went around in a circle and each kid talked about what they could do better. The next two times we played St. John Paul II, we beat them. They deserved everything that they worked for this year.”

The team also benefitted from a trio of midfielders in sophomore Payton Caja (6 goals, 4 assists), and seniors Thiago Nery (8 goals, 10 assists in 14 games), and Lor Louis (4 goals, 7 assists). Unfortunately for the Knights, they lost Nery to a broken collarbone in a loss to Pine Crest last in the season.

Senior defenders Kyle Coulson (4 goals, 5 assists) and Ronison Exavier (2 assists) also played well in the back. Loriston also cited the efforts of freshman midfielder Moses Edson (goal, 7 assists) and junior defender Raphael Nery (goal, assist).

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