Port Clinton didn't look like a regional qualifier as it lost five of seven games at a preseason tournament in Strongsville.
The Redskins, however, lost only one game before falling to Bay 5-2 in a Division II regional semifinal Thursday. Port Clinton (18-2) advanced to the district finals for the second time in program history and regionals for the first.
Bay (13-4-3) scored twice within the first nine minutes Thursday. Port Clinton's Jon Brown took a pass on the ground to the goalkeeper's right and found the open far side of the net with a low shot less than one minute after the Rockets scored their second goal.
"We made a couple mental errors," Redskins coach Paco Romero said. "It was our biggest game and the kids gave it their all. I'm happy for them.
"They were hyped and made a few errors. That's soccer. We came back and that's what we've done -- never surrender. This is something we'll never forget. The growth was tremendous. We came a long way. We hope to improve every year but this team had the tightest bond in a long time."
Brown often stands out in a crowd but Thursday was different. Brown jumped high to attempt a header among three defenders from the goaltender's left.
The three defenders seemed to stop rising as Brown's head popped above the crowd to direct the ball into the goal for a 2-2 tie about eight minutes into the second half. The tally gave Brown 44 goals for the season and 86 for his career, both program records.
Brown is the best player Romero has seen in the conference or at the district level the last 11 years.
"His knowledge for the game and athletecism are by far the best we've seen," Romero said. "His teammates give him beautiful balls. He has good timing and makes beautiful runs. He's not selfish. He's humble, he works hard and he brings out the best in his teammates."
Brown thinks about his individual accomplishments from a team perspective.
"I can't do it alone," he said. "It's not 1 vs. 11. It's all 11 together. We focused on one goal and everybody playing their role. Mine was to put it in the back of the net. Everybody stepped up."
Bay took the lead for good on a penalty kick two minutes later.
"We knew Jon Brown was the top player on the field and if we could get the ball off his foot and make somebody else beat us ...," Rockets coach Bobby Daugherty said. "Three of our five goals came off restarts."
Redskins goalkeeper Kalib Shiets followed with four difficult saves before the Rockets capped the scoring with two goals with about 10 minutes to play. Stephen Behrens, Jose Figueroa and Carter Rumball made strong plays on defense for Port Clinton.
"They're good at what they do," Romero said of Bay. "They get to balls. They play physical. That's how it is in the regional semis -- we battled and fought."
Port Clinton, which is ranked 10th and won a second consecutive Sandusky Bay Conference crown this season, developed strong bonds and chemistry on the field and off this year. The Redskins enjoyed spending time together whenever possible, not just on the practice field.
"The teamwork and how well we fit together," Brown said of what he'll remember most about an historic campaign. "We hung out together. We basically lived together. Just the camaraderie of the whole team.
"We grew up together and played rec together. We knew each other forever. Nobody thought we'd do anything at the beginning of the season and to do this was special."
Port Clinton won one game and tied another at Strongsville. Its only regular-season setback came to Sylvania Southview.
"We took some lumps," Romero said of the preseason. "That helped kick-start something beautiful and we'll continue. We're a young team and the majority of the kids played out there."