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SEMINOLE — Junior Francis couldn’t believe his eyes.
In the final five minutes of a tie game against Seminole on Monday, the St. Petersburg sophomore forward put some token pressure on goalkeeper Kenneth Matthews. Matthews hustled to collect a loose ball in front of the net with Francis nearly 10 yards away.
Then, the wet ball slipped through Matthews’ goalie gloves. Francis turned on the jets, side-stepped Matthews and knocked the ball in from 5 yards out to score the winner in the Green Devils’ 3-2 victory.
“I saw him bobble the ball so I just told myself, it’s 50/50, go for it,” Francis said. “I just wanted to get there as fast as I could.”
The fact that St. Petersburg (6-2-1) was even in the game was improbable. Since a 1-1 tie to Clearwater, Seminole (10-2-2) had won five straight and outscored opponents 25-1. And in the first 10 minutes, the Warhawks were up 2-0.
In the fifth minute, Andrew Goodman worked his way into the left corner and managed to get off a cross before falling down. Eric Sines ran onto the ball and buried it into the left corner from 10 yards out to make it 1-0.
In the 10th minute, Travis Sly had a long throw-in that cleared defenders and bounded to teammate Liam Rafferty, who took a high hopper and drilled a left-footer from 15 yards to make it 2-0.
That lead lasted all of three minutes. St. Petersburg’s Sean Covington, playing forward because of a shoulder injury that does not allow him to play goalkeeper, blasted a 20-yarder that Matthews bobbled then caught behind the goal line.
Matthews also became part of St. Petersburg’s second goal in the 37th minute. Clark Jacobson took a shot from 15 yards that Matthews dove to save. But the rebound went to Francis, who scored from point-blank range into the open net.
“That’s how Junior plays,” St. Petersburg coach Rui Farias said. “He’s nonstop running in front of the goal. And he’s only a sophomore. He’s a tremendous player.”
Most of the second half was a battle of defenses. Then Francis got fortunate and St. Petersburg went home with a win.
“We scored and then we quit,” Seminole coach Rick Masi said. “We needed this. All credit to St. Petersburg. They wanted this more than we did.”
In the girls game, Seminole scored two first-half goals and converted a late second-half penalty kick to defeat St. Petersburg 3-1. Jordyn Turner started the scoring in the 13th minute for the Warhawks when she nailed a left-footer into the upper-left corner of the goal.
In the 28th minute, Olivia Red made it 2-0 when she secured a loose ball on a corner kick and buried it from 5 yards. But St. Petersburg kept it a game in the 38th minute when Christina Mendoza scored from 12 yards.
Seminole dominated for much of the second half and finally converted with just minutes left in the game. A hand ball in the penalty box gave Red a penalty kick, which she converted.