Photo/James Pugh

What a difference a year makes. This time a year ago, the Sacred Heart Crusaders were left to recover from a disappointing end to a stellar season. A 4-2 loss to St. Joe’s for the Class 1A/2A/3A State Championship sent the Crusaders back to the drawing board as they worked toward their shot at redemption. 

On Saturday, the Crusaders finally got that chance, and they took full advantage against St. Andrew’s. It came down to a pressure-filled situation for Garrett Bell, who was chosen by his teammates to take a penalty kick in a scoreless game. 

“I was nervous, but the support of my teammates really calmed me,” Bell said. “Having everyone there, it felt like a practice almost. I’m with all my friends, and we’re so close. It just kind of came natural.”

It certainly looked natural. In the game’s 53rd minute, Bell converted his try, giving Sacred Heart a 1-0 lead. The Crusaders, who made a habit of winning close games this season, were able to hold on for the remaining 27 minutes on the way to capturing their first state title since 2013. 



“You look at our results from throughout the year, and it’s been a bunch of 1-0, 2-1 type of games,” Sacred Heart coach Joe Falla Jr. said. “We’re very composed in a 1-0 game. We’re very calm and can handle it.

“It’s fantastic. I was rooting for them just simply because of what took place last year. They needed a chance at redemption, they really did.”

In last year’s loss to St. Joe’s, Falla said his team lacked effort. Again, what a difference a year makes. 

“The effort was there today,” he said. “We didn’t lack in the effort part.”

Now a three-time state champion at Sacred Heart, Falla is already planning another trip to that drawing board with hopes of going back-to-back next season. His team will not be short on returning talent. 

“I’ll go back to the board,” he said. “I’ll get on the pen and paper right now and start writing down some things that we can correct and build on. That’s for sure.”