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LITHIA — With a 2-0 victory Wednesday over Newsome in the Class 5A, District 7 semifinal, Wharton achieved Step One: earn a spot in the region tournament.
The Wildcats know there are many steps remaining. And despite how a matchup may appear on paper, no team will go down without a fight.
“Come playoffs, you can scratch your record out the window,” Wharton coach Scott Ware said. “Guys don’t want their season to end.”
Newsome, the No. 5 seed, had to pull off one upset just to earn its rematch with the Wildcats. The Wolves were able to knock Wharton out of its possession-based game plan, limiting the Wildcats’ ability to shorten the game after they netted a goal in the 14th minute, thanks to a ball played in the box by senior Felipe DeSousa finished by Alex Noble.
The teams exchanged several good chances during the next hour of play, with shots clinking off the crossbar and sailing just wide of the posts. Newsome, which lost to Wharton 5-1 Dec. 6, appeared to get the equalizer in the 63rd minute, but a hand ball call nullified the goal.
After Wolves coach Neal Rickmers was given a red card, DeSousa was able to give Wharton an insurance goal in the 71st minute when he sent a long rebound into the back of the net.
“It was luck,” he said of his 38th goal on the season. “The goalkeeper had it, but then I saw the ball coming out and I just rushed.”
In the first semifinal, Bloomingdale defeated Alonso 3-2 thanks to senior Matt Firestine’s hat trick. Firestine, who has 23 goals on the year, scored his first goal off a long pass from senior Scott Shaw to give the Bulls a 1-0 lead going into halftime. His second came off a penalty kick, and his third, a header, extended the lead to 3-1 in the 77th minute.
Alonso added its second goal of the half a minute later as Ernesto Roque sent his shot into the lower left corner of the net. The Ravens had one last chance to even the score in stoppage time with a Michael Ciluffo free kick from about 20 yards in front of the goal. The Bloomingdale five-man wall was able to force Ciluffo to kick it right into the keeper’s hands.