District soccer: Bogie gets title game wish, faces Osceola
GULFPORT – With a bevy of club soccer players to pick from, Osceola has long been one of the strongest, most targeted teams in Class 3A, District 10.
Looking to avenge a loss in last year's district semifinals, Largo stood toe-to-toe with the Warriors deep into the second half of Wednesday's playoff rematch until an unfortunate error broke things open.
With 11:45 left in regulation, Packer goalkeeper Daniel Knight caught a teammate's back pass at the top of the penalty area, setting up a foul and an indirect kick for Osceola. From just outside the left post, junior Nathan To rolled the ball to senior defender Taso Halverson, who drilled a rocket to the top right-hand corner for what proved to be the game's lone goal.
Now with a 12-3-1 record, second seed Osceola faces host and top seed Boca Ciega (13-2-2) in the district final on Friday.
“We put in a lot of practice on set pieces,” said Halverson of the game winner. “Nathan laid out a perfect pass, and, every time (for me) it's right foot, right post.”
Largo (12-8-1) took advantage of a possession-minded Warrior squad to ring up six first-half shots on goal. Senior Ariel Perez Alonso was a force in the early going for Largo with effective free kicks, while sophomore Alexander Armstrong threw a pair of testing shots at keeper Tristen Waters (seven saves) late in the half.
Osceola got effective early shots from To and Christian Soto, but really turned up the heat after a midfield steal from Armstrong forced Waters to make a superb diving save in the 46th minute.
“We planned to keep possession early and see how Largo played,” Halverson said. “Then we pushed them to the limit but they fought back well.”
Knight (five saves) denied To on a pair of long free kicks, then got help from a forgiving crossbar on Halverson's rebound try in the 50th minute. After Halverson's goal, Knight stuffed junior Thialer Groen on a clean breakaway with 6:40 left, but Largo couldn't muster up another foray to the Osceola end.
“This was Daniel's best game of the season,” said Largo coach Aaron Tallbacka. “He kept us in the game and commanded the back line. We just started getting desperate and playing long balls. (Osceola) has excellent center backs that wouldn't allow us to do that.”
In the opener, Boca Ciega's front line and midfielders overwhelmed and frustrated No. 5 Southeast's defense in a 4-0 decision.
“When we came back from Christmas break, we started playing the best team game we've seen,” said Bogie head coach Colby Bidwell. “Our level of passing, our communication … It really allowed our individual stars to shine.”
The field was heavily tilted in favor of the Pirates, especially in the opening 45 minutes when they surged to a 3-0 lead.
In the 13th minute, junior Bajram Tufekcic delivered a fine corner that senior David Weidner pulled out of a scrum and tucked into the net.
With 2 ½ minutes left in the first half, sophomore Conner Schinholser drew a hand ball call in the box, then drilled the penalty kick just off Southeast keeper Logan Sweetin's fingertips and past the right post.
During halftime, the coaching staff of Southeast (9-11-2) vehemently protested that the ball was placed too close to the goal for the PK, drawing three cards and ejection of one of their assistants.
Less than two minutes into second-half action, freshman Vedad Delic essentially salted away the victory as he drove down the right side and slid a perfect ground shot into the low left corner for his 14th goal of the year.
Senior Akiley Coombs added insurance in the 49th minute, dribbling himself clear on the left side to a breakaway that he finished with a fine outside-foot kick past Sweetin.
“We have a rivalry with Osceola,” said Bidwell, whose squad toppled the Warriors in the regular season for the first time in his six-year stint with the Pirates. “We wanted to be in the title game with them.”