TRINITY — Nick Schroder was dragging after 97 minutes in Friday’s grueling Class 3A, District 8 championship game when River Ridge teammate Antonio Chavdarov told him to keep pressing forward.
“Thank God he told me to push up,” Schroder said.
Schroder knocked a deflection from the top of the box into the back of the net with three minutes left in the second overtime to give his team a 2-1 upset victory over top-seeded Mitchell. The Royal Knights (10-6-5) advance to host Pasco in next week’s region quarterfinal, while Mitchell (18-4-3) will travel to Sunlake.
The Mustangs seemed ready to repeat their previous blowout 5-0 blowout over rival River Ridge by racking up 16 shots in the first half. After three shots hit the post or crossbar, Christian Benware followed a Nathan Strukel miss and pounded it into the net in the 33rd minute.
“They are so good,” said River Ridge coach Mike McHugh, who earned his 75th career victory Friday. “I told my guys at halftime, it feels like there’s 15 of them compared to our 11.”
The Royal Knights attacked more in the second half and earned three good looks in a six-minute span before Justin DaSilva finally broke through. His shot off a corner kick with 14 minutes remaining tied the game at 1.
A physical game with six yellow cards slowed play after regulation. River Ridge goalkeeper Tyler Manaras stopped a Nathaniel Hayes shot 15 seconds into the second overtime for one of his 13 saves to keep his team alive.
“Good God,” McHugh said. “He kept us in it, man.”
Long enough for Schroder to bring a district title home.
DaSilva took a shot after a Mitchell deflection, but Mustangs goalkeeper Davis Byrkit knocked it back. The ball squirted out to Schroder.
“I got all of it,” Schroder said.
Schroder admitted he had already started to think about upcoming penalty kicks and the rest he’d get before his turn came. Instead the junior blasted the first overtime goal of his high school career into the goal to start a celebration on the sidelines.
“Composure — not exactly sure how I kept it,” Schroder said, “but I kept it well enough to put the ball in the net.”
And well enough to give his team a home playoff game next week.
4A-8: Wiregrass scoring chances squandered
TAMPA — Sore ankles, searing calf muscles and fractured spirits are all Wiregrass Ranch has to show for more than 200 intense minutes in the Class 4A, District 8 tournament.
A Friday night of foiled opportunities ended in the penalty-kick round, where top-seeded Sickles edged the Bulls for a 2-1 (4-3 PKs) triumph in the semifinals at Gaither High.
Hobbling at some positions as the result of a penalty-kick quarterfinal win Wednesday against Freedom, the Bulls (15-8-1) nonetheless outshot Sickles 16-15 over 100 minutes and missed four flush scoring chances in the second overtime.
“They played with such heart,” Bulls coach Dave Wilson said. “If we could’ve finished a couple it would’ve been nice, but I can’t ask for more than I got out of them.”
Trailing by a goal in the second half, the Bulls evened the score in the 56th minute when Sickles keeper Ryan Cooper deflected a Mitchell Oliveri shot at the goal line. Cooper couldn’t scoop it up, however, allowing junior Dujon Barnett to converge for a tap-in goal.
“I really thought we should’ve come in here and dominated them and beat them, because we dominated them the first time we played them,” said Sickles coach Carl May, whose team won the first meeting 3-2.
“But credit to their coach and their team. They’re very well coached, they’re very disciplined, they talk a lot, they communicate well, they don’t get down.”
3A-7: Sunlake stays perfect on the season
DADE CITY — A night after clinching its second playoff berth in school history, Sunlake won a second straight Class 3A, District 7 title, extending its season-long unbeaten streak to 27-0 with a 2-0 win over Pasco.
The Seahawks have posted four consecutive shutouts over the tournament host Pirates. That includes three 5-0 victories — beginning with last year’s district semifinal — before Friday night’s win.
“It’s a lot different this year, because we were the favorites,” Sunlake coach Sam Koleduk said in comparing back-to-back district titles.
“We used to be the underdogs. We really responded this year in going undefeated.”
Third-seeded Pasco (12-6-1) returns to regionals after a two-year drought thanks to a district semifinal win over No. 2 Land O’Lakes.
“Most people wrote us off,” Pasco coach Barry Grayling said. “The players got together and they said they were to going to show what they were all about.”
Both goals for Sunlake came in similar fashion with Ryan Norberg and Connor Spencer each scoring on headers in front of the Pasco net. Chris Wilkerson made a high pass from the right side to set up Norberg’s goal in the first half and Spencer scored his 34th of the season off a 40-yard looping pass from Austin Goble.
Sunlake goalkeeper Daniel Hrenko did not have to work hard for his county-leading 20th shutout of the season, making just two saves on both Pasco shots that came in the final three minutes.
Staff writer Joey Knight and correspondent Steve Lee contributed to this report.