ST. PETERSBURG — Within the first 13 minutes of Thursday’s Class 5A, District 8 semifinal, St. Petersburg’s Roman Baez and Jeffrey Holecek each scored to give their team what seemed to be a comfortable lead against rival Palm Harbor University.
Green Devils coach Rui Farias knew better.
Twice in the past two seasons, he watched his team blow two-goal leads against the Hurricanes and settle for ties. Sure enough, the lead was cut in half when PHU’s Brandon Kim scored to make it 2-1 at the half.
“I told the guys that we’ve been here before,” Farias said. “They could write their own script.”
This time, St. Petersburg held on to the lead in a 3-2 victory. The Green Devils advance to tonight’s championship game at East Lake.
“This was just our time to take the game,” Farias said. “We didn’t play passively. That’s how we lost leads to them before. We just kept putting our foot on the gas and kept going.”
The game was rough in the first half with several fouls called. A red card was issued to the Hurricanes’ Nicholas Caron and the team had to play a man down the rest of the game.
In the second half, Semmes Bruce added to St. Petersburg’s lead to make it 3-1. Minutes later, Frank Trump scored for the Hurricanes.
Trailing 3-2, PHU tried to put together a few scoring chances, but the Green Devils were able to thwart each of them.
“In the game of soccer you don’t have too many surprises,” Hurricanes coach Alex Delgado said. “But we weren’t expecting this. We battled back, even though we were down a man and stayed in the game. But St. Petersburg really surprised us with the way they played, especially in the first half.”
5A-8: Eagles scrap for overtime win
East Lake’s Josh Page scored 20 seconds into overtime to keep the season alive with a 3-2 victory over Sarasota Riverview. Taylor Youngblood assisted. Page also had a goal in the first half that gave host East Lake a 1-0 lead. Riverview tied the game before halftime.
The Rams then took a 2-1 lead in the second half. But with five minutes remaining in regulation, Mathias Ghiena scored the equalizer to send it into overtime.
“(Riverview) battled like champions,” East Lake coach Alex Stenson said. “But credit to our players. They never quit and dug in and kept fighting and competing.”
4A-10: Northeast, Seminole right on course
SEMINOLE — There were no surprises in the Class 4A-10 district semifinals Thursday night. Northeast overcame an early miscue and defeated Clearwater 5-2. Seminole jumped on Dixie Hollins early and often in an 8-0 mercy-rule win.
Seminole, the top seed, will host No. 2 Northeast at 7 tonight for the district championship. Both teams advance to next week’s region tournament. This is the 13th straight year the Warhawks have advanced to regional play. Northeast last went in 2011.
Things did not start well for the Vikings on Thursday. A miscommunication on defense led to an own goal in the fourth minute. But Northeast (12-4-1) settled down and got on the board in the 18th minute.
Djordje Rakovic launched a perfect cross from the right corner to Aleksander Slivik, who tapped in the left-footer from 2 yards out to tie the game.
Just one minute later, Rakovic gave Northeast the lead with a blast from 15 yards. It became 3-1 in the 28th minute when Stevie Rodderham faked out a defender and ripped a right-footer from 20 yards.
The Vikings’ last goal of the half came in the 30th minute, when Christian Nshimyumuremyi outjumped goalkeeper Cody Morse and scored on a header from 10 yards.
Clearwater managed to score in the 32nd minute on an Austin Powell shot. But the Tornadoes could not find the net after that.
“We emphasize from the very first day the importance of possession,” Vikings coach Tom Blauvelt said. “We move the ball very well. We had a run of about 15 minutes in the first half where we played as well as we have all year.”
The second half was evenly played. The only goal came with 17 minutes left when Rodderham scored on a free kick just outside the 18-yard box.
“It seems like we’re usually playing from behind,” Rakovic said. “But we’re a tough team. We’re a second-half team. We like to get everyone involved. This is the best passing team I’ve been on in my four years.”
Seminole (13-5-4) scored four goals in the first 20 minutes against the Rebels (7-10-3). It took only three minutes for Eric Sines to find the net on a Travis Sly assist. Then came a flurry of three goals in seven minutes.
Andrew Goodman scored in the 13th minute. Shane Butler scored in the 15th minute and Sines scored again in the 20th minute. Sines made it a hat trick in the 32nd minute on a 10-yard shot.
After goals by Butler and Nathan Yeager, Seminole led 7-0 at halftime and emptied the bench. The game ended early when Tanner Vaughn scored in the 49th minute.
A-7: Big lead nearly slips away for IRC
At Tampa Prep, Indian Rocks Christian scored five first-half goals and led 5-1 at halftime then had to hang on for a 5-4 victory over Calvary Christian. IRC goalkeeper Shane Haas had the play of the game when he saved a penalty kick with 12 minutes left.
Michael Bebell had two goals to lead IRC.
“It was probably a great game for a spectator to watch, but not for a coach,” IRC coach Ben Futoran said. “We played very well in the first half and not so well in the second half. We have to put two halves together in the final.”
The Golden Eagles will face Tampa Prep, which routed Cambridge Christian 8-0.
Staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.