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ST. PETERSBURG — Even though the boys soccer season is just four days old, Lakewood’s road tilt at St. Petersburg carried huge implications.
Entering the season, the Spartans and the Green Devils were thought to be front-runners for the South County championship. And since Thursday’s matchup is the only time the two meet this season, the winner would have a huge leg up in the race to reach the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. Behind two goals from sophomore forward Charlie Canal, Lakewood jumped out to a 4-0 lead moments into the second half and hung on for dear life over the final 30 minutes to preserve a 4-3 win. The victory puts the Spartans in the driver’s seat for a return trip to the PCAC championship.
“That puts us one game up for PCACs,” Lakewood coach Rob Bauer said. “Going back to that game was one of our team goals. We got the taste of that last year and we didn’t really like the taste of that, losing that game in overtime to Palm Harbor University.”
The Spartans (1-1) poured it on in the first half. Hamza Elotmani broke a scoreless draw in the 20th minute by curling a free kick from just outside the 18 around the wall and into the upper-right corner of the goal.
Three minutes later, Prince Uchendu deflected a shot from Mario Juster-Kruse into goal to make it 2-0
With seven minutes left in the first half, Canal chipped a shot over St. Petersburg goalkeeper Thomas Brunello for his first goal, and eight minutes into the second half he gave Lakewood a 4-0 edge by slotting a pass from Uchendu past Brunello.
Still, St. Petersburg (1-1) wouldn’t go away. Alex Matacchrero scored with 27 minutes left to put St. Petersburg on the scoreboard, and John Holecek headed in a ball off a corner to make it 4-2 with nine minutes remaining.
The Green Devils had numerous scoring opportunities in the second half. A header off a free kick ricocheted off the post. Another shot headed for the open goal was cleared off the line by a Spartans defender.
And Lakewood goalie Jackson Sheddan made a handful of spectacular saves down the stretch.
“That’s a baseball player for Lakewood. I had to go to other sports and grab keepers,” Bauer said. “He’s got good hand-eye coordination. I’m blown away by what he’s been able to do.”
Hudson White sent a header into goal seconds before the full-time whistle in a last-gasp attempt for the Green Devils.