TAMPA —Austin Iglehart and the rest of the Berkeley Prep senior class won their fourth straight Class 2A region semifinal Feb. 4, beating Clearwater Central Catholic for the second time this season.
That was just the beginning of a week Iglehart won’t soon forget.
The very next morning, Iglehart, a kicker and punter for the Bucs’ football team, signed to continue his kicking career at Wake Forest. He was one of two Bucs to sign with a Division I football program on national signing day.
But he still wasn’t done.
Two days later, Iglehart assisted on the Bucs’ lone goal — scored by Lance Esposito in the 73rd minute — that gave Berkeley Prep a 1-0 win against Bishop Verot in the region final and the Bucs’ a third consecutive state final four berth.
“I was just thankful, to be honest,” Iglehart said. “So many dreams came true last week.”
Iglehart’s first love was soccer, a sport he’s played since he was 4 years old. But when Iglehart was in eighth grade, football coach and PE teacher Dominick Ciao noticed that the longtime soccer player had quite a leg and convinced him to join the football squad.
Iglehart fell hard and fast for the game.
His sports are quite different. But it isn’t hard for the 6-foot kicker, who also plays volleyball at Berkeley Prep while holding down a 4.0 grade-point average, to find common ground between them.
“With soccer I play sweeper. It’s kind of like the last line of defense, so I can’t really get beat,” Iglehart said. “Kicking field goals, there’s pressure on every kick.”
Iglehart’s future might be in football, but right now he’s part of a Berkeley Prep defense that has fueled the Bucs to several upsets this season. After playing a tough schedule, coach Tim Cooper said, the Bucs (10-10-5) didn’t even have a winning record heading into the playoffs.
But once again, the final four veterans — who lost in the championship game in 2012 and in the state semifinals in 2013 — are headed back to the sport’s biggest stage.
Iglehart helped the Bucs get there by sending an indirect kick 53 yards to the box, where Esposito headed it in for the goal.
“When you’ve got a player that can strike the ball and put pressure on the other team’s defense, it is an asset,” Cooper said of Iglehart.
As they have been for many big games this season, the Bucs will be the underdogs against Orlando Bishop Moore (24-4-1) in Wednesday’s state semifinal in Melbourne.
But this team, while it lacks the talent that past Berkeley squads have had, Iglehart said, has got the heart to fight against the odds.
This time, it’s more important than ever that they do.
Because while Iglehart still has an athletic career in his future, it won’t be in soccer. And he’s not quite ready to say goodbye to the game.
“With each game and each practice, I try and tell the guys, ‘Don’t let this be the last practice, because it might be the last time I ever touch a soccer ball again,’ ” he said. “I just don’t want it to come to an end yet.”
Class 2A semifinal
Who: Berkeley Prep (10-10-5) vs. Orlando Bishop Moore (24-4-1)
When/where: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday; Eastern Florida State College, Melbourne
At stake: The winner will play Pinecrest Gulliver Prep or Pensacola Catholic on Thursday at 5:30 for the state championship.