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RIVERVIEW — Wharton entered Thursday’s Class 5A, District 7 semifinal against Newsome with nothing to lose.
The Wildcats were facing the district’s No. 1 seed in Newsome, a team that won 15 games during the regular season. Wharton, on the other hand, finished below .500 and had just four wins.
The Wildcats’ regular-season struggles mattered little once the match began, however.
Both teams scored a goal in the first half but failed to find the net after halftime and through two overtime periods. Five rounds of penalty kicks weren’t enough to determine a winner either. Only when Wharton’s Kiran Basu clanged his penalty kick off the crossbar and Newsome’s Tim Main was true with his shot in the sixth round were the Wolves able to escape to with a victory (1-1, 4-3 PKs).
“We didn’t want to go to PKs. We wanted to win in regulation,” Main said. “We were just lucky to win in PKs.”
A little more than 10 minutes into the match, Newsome’s Ajay Sequeira received the ball on the left wing, dribbled through defenders into the box before placing a shot inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.
That advantage lasted less than two minutes. Wharton answered immediately when a loose ball ended up in front of the Newsome goal, and Joey Ferrin rose above the fray to equalize for the Wildcats.
Wharton played defensively from that point on, putting most of its players behind the ball.
In PKs, Newsome made its first three attempts before its fourth was saved by Wharton keeper Keenan Kushner and its fifth went over the crossbar. Wharton’s first attempt was saved by Newsome keeper Zach Webb. The Wildcats made their next three before missing the target on their final two shots.
Newsome will face Plant in the final after the third-seeded Panthers upended second seed Riverview 3-1.
The Panthers struck first 10 minutes into the match when a throw-in bounced into the Riverview box. Kevin Atari was the first to the ball and headed it past Riverview goalkeeper Charlie Stephens.
“I think a defender mistimed it,” Atari said. “I saw he wasn’t going to get to it, so I hit it real hard.”
The Panthers added a crucial goal right before the break when Luis Zapata received a perfectly placed through ball from Auston Molina and scored.
James Talka secured Plant’s spot in the final by scoring with 11 minutes remaining. Riverview’s Marc Lozada prevented the shutout, scoring with five minutes to go for the Sharks.
4A-9: No. 6 Hillsborough fights way into final
PLANT CITY — Hillsborough, a team that won three games in the regular season, is headed to the playoffs. Mack Rocha’s header with seven minutes left gave the Terriers a dramatic 1-0 win against Brandon in the 4A-9 semifinals Thursday.
Hillsborough will face top-seeded Strawberry Crest in tonight’s district title match. The Chargers were challenged but topped East Bay 3-0 in the first semifinal at Raider Stadium.
The Terriers didn’t play like a sixth seed. Hillsborough (5-6-3) controlled the first half, and in the second both teams pushed equally for the would-be winner. It came when Russell Gardiner sent a free kick from the right wing — he called it “the perfect position to take it from” — and Rocha snuck his shot inside the right post.
Four minutes earlier the Eagles (5-5-4) were reduced to 10 men after a player received a second yellow card. Still Brandon had two golden chances to force overtime. An indirect free kick from 15 yards was cleared, and Carlos Lopez broke in clean but sent a shot well wide.
“Our boys were in every game we played this year,” said Terriers coach Steve Colborne.
Strawberry Crest (11-2-1) entered as the decided favorite but last week the Chargers lost team leader Noah Shaffer to a knee injury, and it had a clear impact.
East Bay (5-5-4) had all of the early chances, most courtesy of crafty forward J.C. Escobar.
“We could have been in a real predicament had they scored there,” said Chargers coach Scott Vomacka. “We came out flat. Noah’s our leader, both vocally and with his play, and it was evident tonight we missed him.”
Strawberry Crest defender Zach Owens-Smith got his first goal of the year, going up high to head in a Tarek Kazbour cross late in the first half. Eric Morgan made two spectacular diving saves for East Bay to keep the outcome in doubt, but when the Indians pushed forward late the Chargers got two goals on the counterattack.
Aldair Moralez-Sanchez scored the first, and assisted on the putaway shot by Mazeed Aro-Lambo.
Both semifinals got fairly physical and intense as they wore on, and tonight’s final promises to go the same way. On Nov. 13 Hillsborough led the Chargers 3-0, all on goals by standout Andrew Miller, before Strawberry Crest came back to tie 3-3.
“There’s definitely some bad blood there. It should be intense,” Miller said.
3A-9: Tigers, Lions prevail
At Lennard, junior Peter Johnson scored one of Jesuit’s two first-half goals then sealed things on a left-footed blast with roughly 16 minutes to go in the Tigers’ 3-1 semifinal win against Leto.
The top-seeded Tigers (19-3-4) seek their eighth consecutive district title in tonight’s final against No. 2-seeded King. The Lions (10-7-4) thwarted Lennard’s quest for its first playoff berth with a 2-1 triumph in Thursday’s nightcap.
Johnson and classmate Eric Mubang gave the Tigers an early 2-0 lead, both scoring on long Jacob Starnes throw-ins. After a Leto goal late in the half, Johnson put the match away with what coach Bob Bauman described as a “terrific left-footed bender to the far post.”
A-7: Terrapins roll
At Tampa Prep, junior Michael Spezza and senior Macsen Pritchard scored two goals each in the top-seeded Terrapins’ 8-0 semifinal rout of Cambridge Christian. Tampa Prep (17-1-2) faces No. 2-seeded Indian Rocks Christian in tonight’s final.
Nick Brabant, Thomas Vanegmond, Andy Hamilton and Shaddy Douidar also scored for the Terps.
Staff writer Joey Knight and correspondent Darek Sharp contributed to this report.