WEEKI WACHEE — The resiliency that made Nature Coast such a dangerous team this season wasn’t enough to capture the Class 3A, District 7 title Friday night.
Playing one man down after a significant call early in the contest, the Sharks were overwhelmed 5-2 by Citrus at Weeki Wachee.
As both teams jockeyed for position in the first 10 minutes, an attack from Citrus resulted in a corner kick. Nature Coast’s Kyle Draper, defending the ball, was assessed a blue card on an intentional handball only 12 minutes in. The Sharks played with one fewer player on the field the remainder of the match.
Citrus immediately took advantage on a penalty kick from Josh Marsden, beating Nature Coast keeper Chandler Hatcher (seven saves) to his left.
“It’s tough getting a blue card only 12 minutes into the game. It really put us behind the eight-ball,” Sharks coach Ian Wald said. “We gave up a goal and lost a man, but we fought hard.”
After a goal within the first minute of the second half to put Citrus up 3-0, Nature Coast was seemingly done for the night. But the same Sharks team that had a losing record coming into the district tournament would not roll over.
“Even when we’re dealt a tough hand, we know we can persevere,” Wald said. “It just says that we’re finally getting things going.”
Nature Coast scored consecutive goals from Joey Wright and Gil Delgado later in the half, and had another wiped off the board due to an offsides call, cutting the Citrus lead to 3-2 with only six minutes left. The ferocious comeback came up short when Marsden scored his second goal, connecting on a counterattack to put the Hurricanes up 4-2.
Jonathan Kreidenweis headed in a corner kick for the Hurricanes’ final goal.
Nature Coast faces Sunlake on the road Thursday in the region quarterfinals.