TARPON SPRINGS — At 5-9-2, Tarpon Springs doesn’t have the most intimidating record. But the Spongers do have their first district championship since 1997 after a 2-0 win over Dunedin in the Class 3A, District 10 final.
Ali Tajik scored both first-half goals for the Spongers, both assisted by Diogo Rodrigues. Tarpon Springs hosts Bradenton Southeast Thursday night in the regional quarterfinals. Dunedin will play at Jesuit.
“It’s been forever around here,” Rodrigues said. “I’m a senior so it’s extra special. I’m leaving the school with my name in the trophy case. I can come back to reunions and see my picture in there. It’s great.”
Tarpon Springs played most of the game in its offensive zone. In the first minute, Rodrigues looped a shot from 30 yards that hit the crossbar. After a few more near misses, the Spongers struck twice in a two minute span.
The first goal came in the 26th minute. Rodrigues dribbled to the right corner and crossed a ball about five yards in front of the goal. Tajik redirected the ball into the open net.
“It was something we’ve been working on in practice,” Rodrigues said. “We want to play like a real team and pass it to each other, cross it in and see what happens.”
The second goal came in the 28th minute. Rodrigues had a long throw in from the right side that landed in the 18-yard box. After a few bounces, Tajik was there to put the ball in the net.
“It ricocheted around and I just knocked it in,” Tajik said.
Dunedin (4-10-2) turned up the pressure in the second half but could not find the net. Tarpon Springs goalkeeper Vasili Makryllos made two big saves to keep the shutout.
“We had a few chances to put them away but couldn’t do it,” said Tarpon Springs coach Kevin Sugar, who played for the Spongers 1991 district championship team. “(Dunedin) didn’t just lay down. They played us very tough.”