In soccer rivalry match, Firehawks relish a loss that felt like a win

Despite loss, players say it was their best game ever.


Photo Courtesy from MJ Glever

HUSTLE: Firehawks and Panthers converge on the ball as they both try to pull ahead in a nail biter 1-0 Panther victory.

By Zev Kent and Clara Sandler

After a scoreless first half, the Firehawk boys’ soccer team fell to the crosstown-rival YULA Panthers 1-0 in their only head-to-head soccer match of the season Feb. 13 in Encino.

Saturday night’s game, played at Crespi High School, was a nail biter. It was 0-0 until the last 15 minutes of the game when YULA player Yoel Cohavy scored a goal to give the Panthers the lead, and ultimately the win.

Shalhevet Coach Lee Turnbull said that despite the loss, the Firehawks played well.

“The boys played exemplary, out of their skin,” said Coach Turnbull. “Only true soccer people that understand the intricacies of the game will understand the work that went into that, and they were magnificent. They’re the pride of the school, they really are.”

This game was a major improvement for the Firehawks who fell 6-0 in last year’s game against the Panthers.

“I think this is the best we’ve played all season,” said Firehawk goalkeeper Eli Greenberg. “Sometimes you just get unlucky. The team played great. Obviously we’d like to be at the winning end, but we wouldn’t play in any differently.”

Fans from both schools lined the field, and as opening kickoff drew closer, everyone was pumped and ready for the game.

“I’m excited because there’s a nice rivalry,” said YULA Coach Rafael Meghnagi before play started.

“When these games are on Saturday nights we have a really nice turnout from parents and faculty from both schools. For me it’s just an amazing event in the Jewish community to be a part of.”

YULA set the tone in the beginning, keeping the ball in Firehawk territory for most of the first half.

Both teams got off some good shot attempts, and both goalies made a lot of saves. Firehawk left-winger Isaac Kahtan almost scored, but the ball was caught by the Panther goalie, Zalmie Kamish.

After some more stops by Shalhevet, including a blocked penalty kick, the first half ended with neither team on top.

“We were trying to be as composed as possible and not get ahead of ourselves,”said Eli after the game. “I think that was one of the better halves of soccer we played all season. We held them to zero goals which was a huge improvement from last year.”

The second half started off better for the Firehawks. They were able to keep the ball on YULA’s side more than they had in the previous half. Near the beginning of the half, Isaac was involved in a collision and left the game. He re-entered the game after a few minutes of rest.

Shots were traded back and forth by both teams, goalies making multiple saves to prevent any goals.

With around 10 minutes left in the game, after missed penalty kicks by both YULA and Shalhevet and some more nice stops by the YULA goalkeeper, Yoel Cohavy scored what would be the winning goal for the Panthers and the only goal of the night.

After scoring, Yoel did a backflip out of happiness and was given a yellow card for excessive celebration. Coach Turnbull said it didn’t bother him.

“Excessive celebrations don’t bother me unless you’re goading another player or another team and being provocative in a negative way,” said Coach Turnbull. “Then it’s bad. But I had no issue.”

Both teams continued to shut each other out for the rest of the game.

“It was a good game,” said Isaac. “We played really well as a team, but they just pulled out better at the end.”

Many people saw the slim point differential as a good sign for the Firehawks, despite the loss, comparing this to last year’s six-point defeat at the hands of the Panthers.

“We played incredibly, absolutely incredibly,” said midfielder Jake Benyowitz.

“We played incredibly, absolutely incredibly. We played with heart. As our coach said, they’re a better technical team. It’s 1-0, it’s totally okay.”

— Jake Benyowitz, mid-fielder