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LAND O’LAKES — It didn’t take the direct path most of his goals do, but considering the circumstances Connor Gilboy wasn’t complaining.
The Sunlake senior’s deflected shot with 13:30 left Thursday was Gilboy’s 100th career goal, and it gave the Seahawks a 2-1 win over archrival Land O’Lakes. It kept Sunlake’s perfect season going at 21-0.
Though Gators defender Stephen Garcia tried to head the ball out and instead sent it right into the net, Gilboy was credited with the score. Gilboy’s ball came in as he neared the end line, giving it the appearance of a cross.
“Absolutely it was a shot,” he said, not about to refuse reaching the century mark. Garcia had a differing view, calling it an own goal.
Despite the slipup Garcia had probably the best game of anyone on the field. Sunlake had four shots on the goal in the first five minutes, but shortly after that Garcia stunned the hosts with a 15-yard volley.
It was the only time Sunlake has trailed all season.
But with 3:30 left in the half Gilboy struck. Austin Goble’s pass gave him just enough room to turn and face goal, and from 28 yards Gilboy crushed a shot over the head of keeper Tommy Koen.
“The second half would have been much different if we’d been down 1-0,” said Sunlake coach Sam Koleduk.
Land O’Lakes (9-4) nearly retook the lead with 26 minutes left but Glenn Johnson’s strike from distance clanked off the crossbar.
“That got me,” admitted Seahawks freshman goalie Daniel Hrenko. “I couldn’t do anything about it but smile and thank my best friend the crossbar. Much respect to Land O’Lakes, we had to play our best to beat them.”
Sunlake just needed a tie to clinch the top seed in District 3A-7 but still pressed for the win, narrowly missing an open net less than a minute before Gilboy’s goal.
The Gators were without head coach Mark Pearson, who was suspended for two games after getting two yellow cards Wednesday against Anclote.
It will be no shock if there’s a fourth meeting between the teams in the second round of the playoffs. Last year the Seahawks’ first defeat of LOL came in the district final, only to have the Gators roll them in regionals en route to the state final.
Gilboy, who has 49 goals on the season, thinks the situation will be different this year.
“It’s taken us four years of being the underdog to realize … we’re not the underdog,” he said.
“We’re no fluke.”