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TAMPA — Berkeley Prep coach Timothy Cooper thought Friday’s Class 3A-10 district final would be a tight contest, but he didn’t know just how accurate his prediction would be.
Heading into the matchup with Clearwater Central Catholic, Cooper figured on a hard-fought, one-goal match.
That’s exactly what he got as Berkeley managed just enough offense in the second half to pull out a 2-1 victory at home.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be a cake walk,” said Cooper, whose team captured its fourth straight district crown. “We knew it would be a tough game. They kind of shut us down a little bit.”
Visions of Berkeley’s 6-0 blasting of CCC on Jan. 5 was a distant memory despite an early Bucs advantage.
The Bucs took a 1-0 lead when Kurt Akman finished a Kevin Harvey pass for a goal eight minutes into the match.
But CCC (18-6) took advantage of a penalty in the Berkeley box after being awarded a penalty kick. Kyle Curinga put the shot in the net, knotting the score at one.
And the Marauders made that count stick for the rest of the first half, frustrating the Bucs by breaking up passes and limiting their chances to drive downfield.
But Berkeley Prep broke the tie 11 minutes into the second half when Tyler Sacone set up a Tanner Bailey shot that raced past CCC goalkeeper Steve Ochsner.
The Bucs (16-3-2) mostly played keep-a-way from that point, mixing in enough defense to thwart a couple of late CCC chances.
“They were prepared for us,” Cooper said of CCC. “We knew it would be a tough game. But some of our guys just played a really great game and it was enough.”