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GAINESVILLE — The Land O’Lakes boys soccer team showed up to Gainesville Eastside on Tuesday evening fully prepared for the 3A region final. There was one slight hiccup, though.
The Gators walked onto a field without fans, an active scoreboard or even another team. There was, however, a janitor. He provided a key assist: The Rams don’t compete at their school.
Eastside plays at Citizen’s Field, about 4 miles north of where Land O’Lakes stood.
“We panicked a little bit because at first I didn’t know how far away the field was,” Gators coach Mark Pearson said.
The misguided arrival proved to be the only flaw in Land O’Lakes’ evening. The Gators arrived to Citizen’s Field with about an hour to spare, and they didn’t look back.
Andrew Garcia netted two goals in the first 10 minutes, Josh Davis punched a couple in himself, keeper Mitchell McCuen kept every shot in front of him and Land O’Lakes (22-3-2) cruised to a 5-0 victory.
Land O’Lakes jumped ahead about three minutes into the game when Miguel Laliberte crossed the ball to Garcia, who scored from 18 yards out.
Garcia needed only two more minutes before giving the Gators a cushion. He received the ball around midfield, evaded two defenders, carried the ball to the top of the box and scored from almost the exact same spot as his first score.
Davis put one in the net 24 minutes later. Senior Nathan Dalton received the ball on the right side of the field and crossed it to Davis on the other side of the box. Davis then shot right, beating the Eastside keeper, who was leaning the wrong way after Dalton’s pass.
Davis added his other goal in the second half, and junior Pat Lawson also got in the mix, scoring the last goal on a rebound with about two minutes remaining.
McCuen was rarely challenged but rose to the occasion in the second half when he stretched to stop a shot to his left.
“We’re going to go forward,” Pearson said. “We’re going to keep attacking every chance we get. We’re going to keep pushing.”
Photo credit: Gainesville Sun