TAMPA — Arelys Jiminez’s birthday gift formally arrived 35 minutes into Friday’s Class 4A, District 8 semifinals. The celebration, however, didn’t commence until more than an hour later.
Jiminez’s son, Sickles senior Carlos Sifontes, scored the top-seeded Gryphons’ goal in the first half, then watched his team prevail in the penalty-kick phase for a 2-1 (4-3 PKs) triumph against Wiregrass Ranch at Gaither High.
Sickles (10-1-3) faces No. 2 Steinbrenner in tonight’s 7 p.m. final.
“I didn’t expect it to be an easy win for sure,” said Sifontes, who wrote a birthday wish to his mom in Spanish on his undershirt. “It was a good match, though, but it doesn’t matter. We won.”
Facing a battered team stretched to the penalty-kick round only two nights before, the Gryphons nonetheless were outshot for the first time all year (16-15).
Offensively, they struggled in transition from midfield to the attacking third, second-year coach Carl May said.
“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 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.”
Sifontes’ goal was set up on Carter Mulroe’s free kick from midfield that drew Wiregrass Ranch keeper Ryan Duran to the corner of the 18-yard box. From there, Sifontes trapped the ball and slithered past Duran for a clean shot.
The Bulls (15-8-1) evened the score in the 76th 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.
Cooper found atonement in the penalty-kick round, blocking the first shot he faced.
“He’s a little crazy when he gets out there and he just anticipates where to go,” May said. “He kept us in the game.”
In the nightcap, Steinbrenner got two goals each from seniors Jason Collister and Derek Gebhard in a 5-0 rout of third-seeded host Gaither (7-7-3). The Warriors, who are making their third playoff appearance in four years, ended Gaither’s streak of five consecutive playoff trips.
Junior Austin Labban also scored for the Warriors (15-1-3), who peppered Gaither with 16 shots.
4A-9: Sixth-seeded Terriers stun No. 1 Chargers
At Plant City, sixth-seeded Hillsborough’s improbable run through the District 9 tournament culminated Friday with a 4-3 triumph against top-seeded Strawberry Crest.
With three tournament victories, the Terriers (7-6-3) nearly equaled their season victory total entering the seven-team event. Hillsborough makes its first playoff appearance in six years when it hosts Northeast in Wednesday’s region quarterfinals.
“I told them before the game tonight, ‘This is special, it doesn’t happen all the time, but you’ve got to earn it,’ ” Terriers coach Steve Colborne said.
They earned it the hard way, on sophomore Brian Spivak’s shot to the far post from just inside the 18-yard box with roughly 12 minutes to play. The teams played to a 1-all tie at halftime and traded goals twice before the winner.
Andrew Miller scored twice for Hillsborough, while Blake Rehl added Hillsborough’s other goal. Mazeed Aro-Lambo had two goals for the Chargers, with Patrick Mayo adding the other.
3A-9: Jesuit removes all doubt in King rematch
RUSKIN — A scoreless tie in Jesuit’s first meeting with King did not sit well with the Tigers. It didn’t take long Friday to start making up for it.
Jesuit scored three goals in a 10-minute onslaught to start the game and went on to a 4-0 victory in the 3A-9 championship game at Lennard.
“We wanted to show the 0-0 tie was a fluke,” said Jesuit coach Bob Bauman. “That first half was the best half we’ve had all year.”
King (10-7-4) won’t be arguing that assessment. The Lions’ back line and especially goalkeeper Nate Johnson were able to survive Jesuit’s peppering the net in the Dec. 14 contest. But they couldn’t stop any of Jesuit’s first three shots this time around.
Less than two minutes in Ethan Saleh sprinted past a pair of defenders on the right wing and drove a cross on the ground, where Eric Mubang sat ready to flick in his 21st goal of the year. Five minutes later Andy Mahoney sent in a long ball that Connor Lufkin corralled, scoring to make it 2-0.
Then it was the Jacob Starnes throw-in show. In a span of five minutes Starnes presented four dangerous chances with a long throw on goal. Saleh got his head to one, beating Johnson for a 3-0 lead with 29:20 still left in the half.
Starnes had to leave when he tweaked a knee injury but said he’d be ready when the Tigers (20-3-4) host Osceola in their playoff opener.
King allowed an own goal late in the first half. After quite the speech from coach Brian Dozark, one that could be heard from 100 yards away, the Lions came out with intensity and it was an even second half.
“We played much better but we still need to get some goals,” he said. “We’re a defensive team but tonight we tried to play a little more forward. And we got caught.”
Joseph Budzban’s well-struck volley from 25 yards was King’s best chance but Alejandro Costas made the save.
Dozark also acknowledged the Lions “let the moment get to them” of being in a district final for the first time in seven years — not to mention facing one of the area’s top programs.
“I think we’ve woken up to the fact that we have to start fast,” Bauman said. “The longer you keep a team in the game the more they gain confidence. It happened last night against Leto (a 3-1 Jesuit win).”
2A-9: Berkeley Prep nabs sixth straight title 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: No deja vu for Tampa Prep
TAMPA — Tampa Prep avenged a district final loss from a year ago to Indian Rocks Christian, defeating the Golden Eagles 3-0 to take the A-7 title on a chilly Friday night.
“I felt we played well,” Terrapins coach Doug Smith said. “I would have liked to put away a few more (goals) in the first half but we did a good job possessing the ball.”
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.
“We got a lot of grief at school for losing to them last year,” defender Macsen Pritchard said.
Pritchard’s service just four minutes in provided the lone goal Tampa Prep would need. Set up in the Terps’ half of the field, Pritchard read the offsides trap and found a streaking Shaddy Douidar, who deked the keeper and knocked in the goal.
“That’s something we work on a lot,” Pritchard said. “We have some fast forwards up top and they got caught.”
Oscar Skjaerpe came out of a goal-mouth scrum to tap in a rebound for a 2-0 Terps’ lead in the 44th minute, and Harrison Horton put a bow on the win, driving in a far post shot from just inside the 18-yard box in the 66th minute.
The Terps outscored their opponents 20-1 in three district games.
“We lost five starters from last year’s team but I see us winning state again,” Pritchard said. “I think we have the best team around.”
Correspondents Bryan Burns, Brandon Wright and Darek Sharp contributed to this report.