ST. PETERSBURG — Back in December, after Seminole gave up three second-half goals in a loss to Northeast, Warhawks coach Rick Masi said, “It’s not how you play in December, it’s how you play in January.”
Those words proved prophetic Wednesday.
Trailing by two goals with 21 minutes left in the Class 4A, District 10 tournament semifinals, Seminole (13-7-1) scored three times in 12 minutes to defeat Northeast 3-2. The win secures the Warhawks’ 15th straight appearance in the region tournament and it sets up Friday’s final at Palmetto.
“I feel badly for Northeast because I would not want to lose a game like this,” said Masi, who is in his 21st season at Seminole. “I’ve lost two like that this year (against Northeast and St. Petersburg). It’s nice to win one.”
For most of the night it looked as if Seminole’s season would end early. Despite spending most of the first half in the Northeast zone, the Warhawks trailed 1-0 at halftime.
Northeast (11-6-2) went up 2-0 on goals from Bryan Combs and Stevie Rudderham.
That gave Seminole a sense of urgency. Just seconds later, Paul Gyorkos scored from the top of the box to make it 2-1.
“I had the easy part,” Gyorkos said. “I was just hanging out back post and had an open net to shoot into.”
The second goal came 10 minutes later when Seminole took a free kick from 25 yards. Andrew Goodman placed it into the upper-left corner.
“It was on line from the start,” Goodman said. “We had to get it done. The urgency was there for us because it was on the line.”
And two minutes after that, Thomas Whiting buried a shot from 10 yards out that went past a cluster of players.
“Garrett (Connell) just slid a pass in to me and I happened to put it where the keeper wasn’t,” Whiting said. “I was just trying to put it on target. I didn’t feel like I struck it too sweetly, but when luck is on your side it goes in.”
In the other 4A-10 semifinal, Osceola scored in the first six minutes but failed to hold on against Palmetto, falling 4-1.
Jake Luff scored for the Warriors, but Palmetto came back with two first-half goals.
It didn’t help Osceola that Luff received a red card for a hard foul and was ejected. Osceola (11-5-3) was already playing without two starters, Caulin Donaldson (injury) and Taylor Abulone (flu).
“But that’s not an excuse,” Osceola coach Al Sousa said. “You have to get it done whoever is out there. This is a very tough place to play, but our guys gave them a tough game.”