District soccer: No slip-ups this time around for Berkeley Prep
TAMPA — As Berkeley Prep sophomore Ethan Judge swiftly dribbled a feed from J.T. Copper toward Tampa Prep's box just before halftime Wednesday, a cautioned shriek came from the Terrapin bench.
"Don't let them take a shot," an assistant shouted.
The warning fell on deaf ears.
Judge, a fleet-footed midfielder, easily skirted a group of defenders seconds later, then finished with a blast that hit twine for Berkeley's third goal of the Class 2A, District 9 semifinal in a dominant 4-0 victory.
The tally sent Tampa Prep netminder Ryan Charest to his knees, repeatedly punching his neon-gloved knuckles into the grass below, and the top-seeded Buccaneers into Friday's final against Tampa Catholic. The No. 2 Crusaders blanked Clearwater Central Catholic 1-0 in the nightcap on a second-half goal by Felipe Mendoza.
"The last two years, we were the No. 1 seed going into this game and we lost," Berkeley coach Tim Cooper said. "We put emphasis on it. That was our goal right from the get-go: We were looking to get out of districts."
With some assistance from the team's talented youth, the Bucs (16-3-3) did so with ease.
Copper, a freshman forward, opened with a goal 19 minutes in and added another later on a point-blank shot set up by a stop-and-go deke that nearly shook a defender out of his cleats.
"It's fun to watch him play," Cooper said. "As a freshman, you see a player that can dominate games like that. That's a game-changer."
But between Copper's second goal and sophomore Freddie Carolan's second-half insurance marker, it was Judge's shot that provided the dagger early to finally lift Berkeley out of its previous district rut.
"They knew the importance of this," Cooper said. "The last 2-3 weeks, we've been focusing on this game.
"The boys came out prepared and ready to play."