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Rockwall-Heath falls short of making history after ‘devastating’ loss in 6A boys soccer state championship



GEORGETOWN, TX — The Rockwall-Heath Hawks didn’t want to be called a Cinderella team because they believed they belonged in the 6A state championship game.

That belief existed despite the fact that no Rockwall ISD team, boys or girls, had ever made it this far before, and despite the fact that the Hawks — a third seed out of district play — had one of the worst records for a team entering the state tournament.

“These aren’t Cinderellas,” Heath head coach Phil Duhon said after the state semifinal win over Allen. “These are giants.”

Duhon’s declaration came before his Hawks even played in the state title game, and the final result of Saturday’s state championship didn’t change Duhon’s mind.

The Hawks fought hard against one-loss San Antonio L.E.E., but couldn’t find the back of the net, falling 2-0 in the 6A state title game Saturday at Georgetown’s Birkelbach Field.

“It’s devastating,” Duhon said. “I honestly didn’t think it would end this way. I thought we would come out on top. We had a great run in the playoffs and it was hard to lose that game like that.”

The win was L.E.E.’s first state championship in school history. The Volunteers lost to Flower Mound in a shootout in the 2019 state championship.

Getting to a state title wasn’t a surprise for the players on Heath, but it wasn’t something those outside of their locker room expected. The Hawks didn’t win any of their last seven regular season games, finishing with four losses and three ties. Heath entered the postseason as the third seed from its district, but each passing playoff win made the district finish more and more irrelevant.

“We were an upset for every game,” Heath senior Brock Bernard said, “but I didn’t think we should’ve been. I’m just proud of everyone, and everything we did in preparation and practice. I’m just going to miss it all.”

In the postseason Heath allowed only one goal in its first six games. The Hawks went to penalty kicks twice, including in the state semifinal against Allen after 100 scoreless minutes prior.

“I was surprised,” L.E.E. coach David Rogers said of Heath’s run. “I thought we could possibly play Allen, but they beat Allen for a reason.”

To beat L.E.E., the defense would have to have a similar performance to the six before it, but the Volunteers proved to be a tougher task.

In the 15th minute, Henry Bowland — a starter on the 2019 L.E.E. team that lost to Flower Mound — received a perfect cross field pass from Julian Sanchez and found himself all alone in front of Junior Tovar. With the majority of the net to choose from, he found an opening on the left side for the game’s first goal.

Bowland had a chance to add a second goal in the first half, but a penalty kick shot he had went off the top off the crossbar and was cleared by Heath before any more damage could be done.

One goal, however, was all L.E.E. would need. Volunteers junior Giovani Garcia scored on a header in the second half to make L.E.E.’s lead insurmountable.

L.E.E. senior goalkeeper Joey Batrouni, a Coastal Carolina signee, kept Heath out of the back of the net all night, but in the 74th minute he was issued a red card after it appeared he hit a Heath player in the face.

Heath used only three defenders after the second L.E.E. goal and pushed to try and break through, but ultimately couldn’t do it.

After the game and the L.E.E. celebration had ended, the Heath players remained on the field. There was a sense of shock, because this team believed it not only should’ve made it to the state title game, but won it.

“I’m going to miss all of them,” Heath senior Brock Bernard said. “I just didn’t want it to end that way. I wanted our last game to be the best it could possibly be.

“It was the time of our lives.”

Duhon also walked up to all his players afterward, hugged them and told them he loved him.

“That’s the truth. That’s the currency our program runs on,” Duhon said as a tear slipped from his right eye. “And I’m proud of these young men and proud of what we accomplished. It’s been an incredible ride and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. They’re absolutely fantastic.”