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SEMINOLE — Seminole coach Rick Masi grew more and more frustrated as his team found creative ways not to score the past few weeks. No matter how hard the Warhawks tried, shots seemed to find their way over crossbars or into goalies’ hands.
Then the Class 4A, District 10 tournament started, and Seminole got its groove back. One night after scoring eight goals against Dixie Hollins, the Warhawks stayed hot in a 4-1 district final win over Northeast.
“It’s a relief,” Masi said. “You have no idea. It’s a big relief.”
Seminole (15-5-1) will host Strawberry Crest on Wednesday in the region quarterfinals. Northeast (12-5-1) travels to Hillsborough.
Both teams started sluggishly, with most of the action taking place in the center of the field. But Seminole got rolling 14 minutes in. Liam Murphy took advantage of Northeast’s inability to clear the ball in the 18-yard box by stealing a pass and racing to the goal. He blasted it into the left side from 5 yards out to make it 1-0.
Just two minutes later, Liam Rafferty placed a perfect pass to Shane Butler, who ran down the middle untouched and converted from 10 yards out. And eight minutes after that, Nate Gilbert crossed a nicely placed ball to Butler, who one-touched it in from 5 yards out to make it 3-0.
Northeast broke the shutout one minute into the second half. Seminole was called for a foul in the 18-yard box and the Vikings were awarded a penalty kick. Stevie Rudderham’s shot bounced off goalkeeper Kenneth Matthews’ leg and into the goal. It was Northeast’s first shot on goal of the game.
Seminole earned a penalty kick of its own with 24 minutes left in the second half due to a foul in the penalty box. Butler drilled the shot, his third of the night.
“Now that we’re actually finishing, scoring goals, we have a whole lot of momentum,” Butler said. “I don’t think we were focused when we weren’t scoring. But now we’ve got it together.”
Masi thinks the biggest difference in his team now is attitude.
“We weren’t playing with that desire, that love of the game,” he said. “It’s back now.”
5A-8: Eagles outmuscle Green Devils
EAST LAKE — East Lake outlasted St. Petersburg for a 3-2 victory Friday night. One of the more physical contests of the year saw 21 fouls, three yellow cards and a red card. The teams had faced off twice this season, the first a tie, then the Green Devils won the Jan. 9 matchup.
The Class 5A, District 8 final was one to remember.
East Lake controlled the tempo early. After the first water break, the Green Devils came on and were awarded a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. Sean Covington, headed to UCLA in the fall to be a kicker for the football team, sent a laser right at the Eagles’ goal. Jeffrey Holecek cut in and the ball glanced off him before crashing into the back of the net.
Minutes later, the Eagles got pressure on the Green Devils. Two shots slammed off each post before senior Nicholas Vetricek pounded one into the box. It ricocheted off a defender and another Eagle before junior Max Guy found it at his feet and pushed it far post.
“We were starting to think it was going to be one of those nights (with shots hitting the post),” Eagles coach Alex Stenson said.
The Eagles outshot the Green Devils 7-3 in the first half, 9-5 in the game. East Lake got on the board again in the 18th minute as Vetricek, streaking down the sideline, got just beyond the defender and crossed the ball to a waiting junior Joshua Page, who made it 2-1.
“That’s what we practice all the time, drive to the corner and cross it like that,” Vetricek said.
Things got chippy as two yellow cards flew, then junior Alex Carbonelli was sent off with a red card and the Eagles had to hold on for 15 minutes, down a player.
Five minutes later the Eagles were on the attack again. Stephen Wankat got possession just inside the 18-yard box and blasted it home to take a 3-1 lead. Now in a defensive role, the Eagles tried to hold on, buoyed by a tremendous back-line effort from David Caulfield. In the waning minutes, St. Petersburg’s Jake Moore scored but time ran out on the Green Devils.
2A-9: St. Petersburg Catholic falls in OT
TAMPA — Daniel Felman knew his winning shot for Berkeley Prep was true the moment he struck the ball.
“My shirt was off before it went in the goal,” Felman joked about his post-goal celebration.
With one deft swing of his right foot, Felman erased more than 96 minutes of frustration for the Bucs in their Class 2A, District 9 final against St. Petersburg Catholic.
Berkeley Prep, the district’s top seed and winner of five straight district titles, could not solve the Barons’ back line. After giving up an early goal, SPC hunkered down, equalized in the second half and kept the Bucs at bay for much of the game.
But with four minutes left in the first overtime, Felman unleashed a curling shot into the upper left corner from 30 yards away to send the Bucs to a 2-1 victory and sixth district championship in a row.
The goal was the result of a quick restart on a Berkeley Prep free kick. Tyler Sacone slipped a short pass off to Felman, who got a running start before blasting his shot home.
“Me and Tyler work really well together,” Felman said. “…Right before he took the kick, I said, ‘Just lay it off to me, and I’ll take the shot.’ ”
Early, Berkeley Prep appeared to be in full control. The Bucs scored in the seventh minute when Daley Donigan crossed into the box and Andrew Kenny one-timed a shot past goalkeeper Andrew Eisienbrei (eight saves).
The Bucs continued to apply pressure but couldn’t find a way past Eisienbrei for the remainder of regulation.
“Their keeper made some big saves at the beginning, and, honestly, I think it kind of frustrated us,” Berkeley Prep coach Timothy Cooper said.
After being outshot 7-0 in the first half, the Barons found their way back into the match in the second. In the 50th minute, Brad Harrington pounced on a defensive miscue from the Bucs to tie the score 1-all.
A-7: IRC stifled in shutout
TAMPA — Tampa Prep avenged a district final loss from a year ago to Indian Rocks Christian, defeating the Golden Eagles 3-0.
IRC defeated the Terps 1-0 in last year’s district championship, but Tampa Prep (20-1-3) went on to win the state title, beating the Golden Eagles 3-1 in the region semis along the way. IRC (11-5-2) coach Ben Futoran said he was hopeful the tables would be turned this year.
“Last year was the first time in school history we’d beaten Tampa Prep, so it was a big deal,” he said. “We were missing three starters tonight. We have a great team and I think if we meet them again (Feb. 2 in the region semis), we will take it to them.”
But Friday belonged to the Terps, who controlled possession, moved the ball with relative ease and allowed just one shot on goal.
A-8: Shorecrest to meet St. Stephen’s
The top seeds advanced to today’s final — with ease. Bradenton St. Stephen’s defeated Northside Christian 8-0 by the mercy rule. St. Stephen’s scored six goals in the first half.
Shorecrest had no trouble with Sarasota Christian, winning 5-0. St. Stephen’s and Shorecrest will play at 5 for the district championship, followed by the girls region semifinal between Shorecrest and Tampa Prep.
Correspondents Andy Warrener, Bryan Burns and Brandon Wright contributed to this report.