GULFPORT — Northeast anticipated a rematch with Pinellas Park in the finals of the Class 5A-12 district tournament.
It almost didn’t get there.
The Vikings got off to a sluggish start Friday against Largo, a team it handled easily during the regular season, and found themselves down 1-0 after Keyvien Oliver’s brilliant goal with less than 16 minutes left in the game.
Northeast then strung together two goals within three minutes of each other and held on for a 2-1 victory.
The Vikings’ wish came true later on as Pinellas Park beat Gibbs in an 8-0 rout to set up the championship game at 10 a.m. today.
“We didn’t expect that at all,” said Northeast senior midfielder Lucas Villareal, who scored Northeast’s first goal and then set up the winner.
“We were already expecting to play Pinellas Park and we overestimated (Largo). We definitely have to learn from this and come out with fire from the first whistle. If we do what we did (against Largo) against Pinellas Park, it will be over quick.”
Villareal put the Vikings (8-6) on the board when he one-timed a loose ball just outside the penalty box for his 13th goal of the season.
Moments later, Villareal placed the ball through the defense from midfield down the right side of the field to Kyle Apperson, who carried it deep to the end line, then crossed to Bogdan Yordanov for an easy open-net goal.
“It’s always comforting to have a player like (Villareal) on your team,” Northeast coach Tom Blauvelt said. “What he did is what you expect from a senior captain. He’s a cool, calm customer.”
In the nightcap, Tyler Allen and Matt Gaskins each had a hat trick as the Patriots scored eight goals in the first half for a mercy-rule victory.
Pinellas Park beat Northeast a little less than three weeks ago when. The Patriots recovered from a 3-2 deficit for a 5-3 victory.