The Warrior fan base let out a gasp, then a sigh. The shot landed snugly in the arms of Century’s goalkeeper. Milano spun on his heel and covered his face with his hands.
All night the Warriors had been searching for a goal, a breakthrough, an equalizer. It never came, and ultimately the Warriors fell to Century, 1-0.
“We all knew we were in it the whole time until the final whistle,” senior forward Cole Trani said. “But it’s just hard when you’re unable to put one in because you’re that close the whole time. And we could’ve done something about it easily with just one goal.”
The Warriors (14-5-1) had been near-perfect on the playoff run that landed them at Loyola, winning their four postseason matches by a combined sore of 14-0. That scoreless stretch boosted the team’s shutout total to 12 on the season.
But it only took about 12 minutes for Century to find the back of the net, scoring when an inadvertent handball set the Knights up with a free kick from 10 yards outside the box and senior midfielder Alex Grasso buried it.
“I talk a lot about how, in games like this you need somebody to have a special moment,” La Plata Coach Chris Butler said. “[Grasso] had their special moment and we didn’t create one. And it wasn’t for a lack of trying.”
Century, who last won a state title in 2003, looked to be the more dangerous team for much of the night. The Knights entered the championship match riding high after a semifinal win over Oakdale, the defending 2A champs, that required eight rounds of penalties.
The idea that it would take a perfectly struck free kick to topple La Plata’s defense in the state championship seemed unlikely for many reasons at the start of the fall, as La Plata began the season 1-3-1 and conceded 20 goals over its first six matches.
“I told them you can’t win any championships if you give up 20 goals in six games,” Butler said. “And the last  games, we’ve given up three goals. So defense is why we’re here.”