No winner, no loser as Firehawks and Panthers battle it out in rivalry soccer showdown


BP Photo by Amanda Wannon.

CONTROL: Firehawks and Panthers fight for ball possession at midfield Feb. 2 in Santa Monica. Played during on-and-off rain, the annual Saturday night rivalry game ended in a 1-1 tie.

A month after the Firehawk girls soccer team routed rival YULA Panthers 6-0, the two rivals’ boys teams squared off on the same field, but this time, the annual rivalry game ended in a 1-1 tie as the Firehawks lost their 1-0 lead late in the game.

The game — dubbed “the game of the year” by players — was played on Saturday night Feb. 2 at Corsair Field at Santa Monica College, the site of the girls’ 6-0 win a month earlier on Jan. 3. It had rained hard on Saturday afternoon, and the rain continued to fall intermittently throughout the game. Still, hundreds of fans showed up to watch the crosstown rivals battle it out at the Firehawks’ season finale.


They’re our rivals, but at the end of the day, they are our friends too.

— Moshe Fhima, Captain of YULA Soccer Team

After a scoreless but intensely contested first half, the Firehawks struck first when left wing Josh Weindling scored on a free kick goal that had the Firehawk fans going nuts. But the excitement faded soon after when the Panthers responded with a goal of their own. The game ended with the score tied at 1-1.

GOAL: Left wing Josh Weindling celebrates after scoring the first goal of the game Feb. 2. Josh also scored a goal against YULA last season when the Firehawks beat the Panthers 2-0 — the first time in more than six seasons the Firehawks had won. BP Photo by Amanda Wannon.

“We dominated that game and deserved to win,” Josh said after the game. “Sadly, we tied, but at least we gave it our all.”


As usual when both schools play each other, competition was fierce as both sides fought for glory. Players and coaches on both sides agreed that this game with no different, and the rivals each played their hearts out.

Though the Shalhevet and YULA rivalry has been heated for years, YULA captain Moshe Fhima said it’s best to have the rivalry stay on the field.

“They’re our rivals, but at the end of the day, they are our friends too,” Moshe said.

Panther midfielder Uri Cohavy scored the tying goal for the Panthers — a header off a free kick — with just minutes left in regulation.

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SCORE: Striker Josh Weindling makes a free kick to give the Firehawks a 1-0 lead over the Panthers late in the 2nd half

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“It was crazy,” Uri told the Boiling Point.

But Firehawk coach Lee Turnbull said that Uri’s game-tying goal could have been avoided if the Firehawk defenders hadn’t been positioned so close to their own goal.

“When defending long free kicks, you want to defend very high to give the goalies more room,” said Coach Lee, who has coached the Firehawks for six years. “If our whole team were 10 yards further up, it would have been no goal… and we would have won.”

Coach Lee said such an occurrence tends to happen in soccer when defenders are trying to hold on to a lead and mistakenly think playing deeper would be a better defense of the goal.

Regardless, the game’s result, combined with last year’s 2-0 Firehawk victory against YULA, point to a changing state in the Shalhevet vs. YULA soccer rivalry. Before last year, YULA had completely dominated the Firehawks in soccer, having won every match since 2011.

Coach Lee said he was proud of his team for playing as a collective and giving it their all. But he said the team unity has only gelled as of late, and it has given the Firehawks the upper hand in games this year such as last week’s 2-1 win against Da Vinci.“Right at the beginning [of the season], the camaraderie within the group was very edgy,” Coach Lee said. “There wasn’t a strong team unity. But we’ve come together as a team, and we ended up having some wonderful performances this year, including last week’s victory against Da Vinci.”

LIGHTS: Firehawks shake hands with the Da Vinci Wolves after losing 6 – 1 in Hawthorne Jan. 31. Niether Firehawk soccer team made the playoffs this season. BP Photo by Sami Weinberg.

The players have made noticeable strides lately in improving their chemistry on the field. And the night before the game, they had Shabbat dinner together at captain Isaac Kahtan’s house to boost spirit before the big game the next day.

Also helping the team was the Firehawk fanbase, which showed up in large numbers despite the LA basin receiving more than inch of rain on Saturday. Both coaches said the rain had no impact on their teams’ play, especially since Corsair Field is a turf field.

Isaac said the great atmosphere brought by the crowd helped the Firehawks perform at their best.

“We were all feeling the love of the crowd and the community,” Isaac said.

In January, the Firehawk girls’ team shut out the Panthers and had six goals of their own, led by sophomore Hannah Berman’s four goals. Sophomore Danielle Liebenthal and freshman Shani Shaham each had a goal. That game was the Firehawk girls team’s only win of the season.  


I love these kids. And every single season they show me why I remain the head coach at Shalhevet. Across the board, they are just top-of-the-line young men.

— Lee Turnbull, Head Coach of Shalhevet Soccer Team

The Firehawk boys finished the season 3-6-1 and did not make the playoffs, while the YULA Panthers finished 5-5-5 and have a playoff game Tuesday against Whittier Christian. The Firehawk girls did not make the playoffs.

Still — and even though he receives multiple invites a year to coach club teams — Coach Lee said he’ll continue to be the head coach of the Shalhevet soccer team because of his affection for his players.

“I love these kids” Coach Lee said. “And every single season they show me why I remain the head coach at Shalhevet. Across the board, they are just top-of-the-line young men.”

After the game, YULA’s assistant coach Paul Walmsley praised the Panthers for their constant determination this season.

“They don’t know what it means to give up,” Coach Walmsley said.

He also offered a positive assessment of the Panthers’ season.

“They’re a young team, and there are some good players for the future,” he said. “They did very well.”

YULA’s head coach could not be reached for an interview.

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