Because it had to forfeit 12 victories for unknowingly using an ineligible player, Steinbrenner’s No. 6 seed in the Class 4A, District 8 tournament was highly misleading.
Gaither’s passion and prolific offense were not.
In an emotional, physical contest Thursday, the No. 2-seeded Cowboys (16-4-1) got two goals from senior forward Jonas Bukh in a 4-2 semifinal triumph on the Warriors’ pitch. Gaither faces Freedom in Saturday’s 7 p.m. title match.
“I thought our guys responded well to the emotional side of the game and kept their heads really well,” Cowboys coach Eric Sims said “I don’t think we played our best game, but we did enough to win and they’re a good team. I’m very happy with the result.”
Steinbrenner’s goals came off penalty kicks. Gaither also got goals from Tarek Assaad and Jacob Snidle, who blistered a first-timer just inside the top of the box.
In the first semifinal, Freedom (11-5-1) got two goals and an assist from junior Jett Wright in a 4-0 triumph against short-handed Wiregrass Ranch. The Patriots are undefeated in six matches in 2012.
Seniors Larry Thorpe and Evan Kruk also tallied a goal and assist each for the Patriots, who seek their first district crown since 2009. The Bulls (15-7-3) were missing three injured starters and goalkeeper Logan Jones, competing in an Olympic Development Program camp.
Class 3A, District 9: At Leto, senior Angel Reyes-Salas’ blast to the upper 90 with nine minutes remaining lifted the Falcons (9-2-3) to a 3-2 semifinal victory against Lennard.
The Falcons face top-seeded Jesuit, a 3-0 winner against King, in tonight’s 7 o’clock title game. Leto also got goals from Alfredo Aparicio and Thomas Valencia, who scored during injury time in the first half to give the host a 2-1 lead.
Jesuit got goals from Brett Durrance, Joseph Metzger and Chris Conlon. Sophomore Lucas Schmeling got the shutout for the Tigers (16-3-1), who seek their seventh consecutive district crown tonight.