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PLANT CITY — Barring an eleventh-hour flirtation with a razor, facial hair will be as prevalent as free kicks when Gaither and Durant square off Friday in the Class 5A boys state soccer tournament.
Neither Cowboys coach Eric Sims nor Cougars counterpart Jamin Hollingsworth has shaved since the playoffs commenced two weeks ago. Following Sims’ lead, some Gaither players — at least the ones who can — also are brandishing fresh whiskers.
“It’d be okay if I could grow a real beard,” joked Hollingsworth, whose facial shadow nonetheless passed 5 o’clock long ago.
The story lines of this all-Hillsborough County semifinal don’t stop with stubble. A 2000 Durant graduate, Hollingsworth is trying to become the county’s first boys or girls soccer coach — and one of the few county coaches of any sport — to lead his alma mater to a state title.
Hollingsworth was a senior center-midfielder on the 2000 Cougars side that reached the 4A region final before its season ended with a decisive 3-0 defeat. Its opponent in that match? Gaither.