TAMPA — Luis Zapata recorded his first career hat trick as Plant shook off a sluggish start to smother St. Petersburg 4-0 in a 5A region quarterfinal Wednesday.
“Part of the problem was we allowed them to do what they do best in the beginning,” first-year Plant coach John Feely said. “We kind of held on for those first 20 minutes and once we started possessing the ball, it turned into a totally different game.”
The Green Devils controlled the first 15 minutes, pressuring the Plant back line and forcing a number of chances around the 18-yard box. But Zapata connected off a header from Auston Molina in the 17th minute, and Plant controlled the run of play from that point on.
“We played in to their strengths early on,” Feely said. “Then we started playing smarter.”
St. Petersburg coach Rui Farias said he was surprised by the Green Devils’ performance.
“It was shocking,” he said. “We beat Seminole, we beat Palm Harbor, we beat East Lake (during the regular season), but we never could keep a rhythm (Wednesday).”
Zapata struck again in the 25th minute when a Green Devil fullback mishit a clearance and gave the senior striker a clear path to goal.
“(The defender) just missed the ball and I got behind him and hit it,” Zapata said.
Zapata extended the lead in the 60th minute. A deep throw-in created a goalmouth scrum and Zapata cleaned up the rebound to put the Panthers ahead 3-0. Seth Rinkevich, who scored the winner against Newsome in the district final, headed on a deep throw-in the 67th minute to put the match out of reach.
Plant travels to East Lake for the region semifinals, just the fourth time the Panthers have reached that point.5
5A: Newsome sees double in loss
EAST LAKE — Josh Page scored with just over a minute remaining to break a tie, making a great move along the goal line and beating the keeper for a goal. Then he did the same thing just seconds later to remove any hope for Newsome as East Lake picked up a 3-1 win Wednesday night to advance to the Class 5A region semifinals.
On a night when the wind played tricks with the ball, and the Wolves (15-7) and Eagles battled to a virtual draw, it was Newsome midfielder Tim Main’s nifty spin off a defender followed by a successful shot on goal with 14 minutes remaining that seemed to change the complexion of the game.
East Lake’s lead on Mathias Ghiena’s goal was wiped out. Time to start over.
“At first, it was a very, very slow-paced game where we weren’t on regular form and just seemed tired out there,” Page said. “In the second half when they finished that goal, we just woke up. The last 10 minutes, we knew we had to do something special.”
That turned out to be Page taking the ball into the corner, where East Lake coach Alex Stenson said he expected his player to cross the ball.
Instead, Page faked out one defender, then another, and dribbled right up on Zach Webb.
“My eyes just popped open,” Page said.
With Webb favoring a crossing pass to the far post, Page ripped a shot near to put East Lake (13-3-5) back in front.
Moments later, Page only had to beat one defender to finish off Newsome with his 20th goal of the season.
In three postseason games, Page has notched winners in overtime (in the district semifinal), with under 20 minutes to play (district final) and in the final minutes Wednesday.
“He’s the guy we expect to do that for us in those situations,” said Stenson.
4A: Strawberry Crest comes up short
SEMINOLE — Nervous hope will now be joined by growing optimism and expectation after Seminole opened its quest for another state final appearance with a riveting 2-1 victory over Strawberry Crest in Wednesday’s Class 4A region quarterfinals.
The Warhawks built their victory with a solid attack that overcame several missed scoring opportunities.
“In the first 10 minutes, I thought we started strong and possessed the ball well,” Seminole coach Rick Masi said. “I really thought we should have had three to four goals in the first half.”
Instead the game was tied at 1 at the half. The Warhawks scored first on a goal by Travis Sly. Strawberry Crest answered with a goal by Franco Caballero-Palacio in the half’s final two minutes.
“(Strawberry Crest) had two real scoring opportunities, and they managed to convert one of them to get back in the game,” Masi said.
“We had a lot of opportunities. We just had trouble converting.”
Aside from a goal that was nullified, the Warhawks also had shots that sailed wide and one that hit off the top of the crossbar.
It wasn’t until early in the second half that Seminole was able to regain the lead when Shane Butler scored off a penalty kick to make it 2-1.
Through most of the game, Strawberry Crest was limited with one of its top scorers, Mazeed Aro-Lambo, hampered by an injury.
The Warhawks had a chance to score in the final three minutes but another goal was waved off because of an offsides call.
“A win is a win,” Masi said. “We’ll take it. But we have to be more efficient and make some of those shots if we’re going to keep going in the playoffs.”
4A: Terriers thwarted
TAMPA — It was a tale of two halves at Hillsborough High on Wednesday night. The wind blowing hard right at the visiting goal meant the Terriers would need to do their scoring in the first half, Northeast in the second.
The Vikings got the edge with a pair to win 2-1.
“That was one of the worst halves we’ve ever played,” Vikings coach Thomas Blauvelt said. “It was good just to be down 1-0.”
The Terrier offense was in gear during the first half, out-shooting and out-playing the Vikings. Senior keeper Christopher Sato was booting goal kicks all the way into the Vikings’ back third with the wind at his back.
Sato’s leg set up the Terriers lone goal. In the 19th minute of the first half, Sato crushed one that sailed over the entire Vikings defense into the right corner. It won a deep throw-in for the Terriers, which senior Mack Rocha tipped in near post.
In the second half the roles reversed. Miller, who had been so dominant in the first half, disappeared. Only the tough back-line play from senior Ulysses Rivera, heading out balls left and right and even taking one to the face, kept the game from getting out of hand.
After several valiant attempts from Viking sophomore Stevie Rudderham to break into the left side of the Terrier defense, he tapped one to junior Bryan Combs who tied the score at 1. Rudderham delivered the coup de grace in the fifth minute to seal the win for the Vikings.
4A: Steinbrenner 7, Ridge Community 1: At Davenport, the Warriors (16-2-3) exploded for six second-half goals after facing the wind in the first 40 minutes. Senior captain Jason Collister had two goals while classmate Logan Siben added three assists. Fellow seniors Enrique Barboto and Derek Gebhard had a goal and assist each.
Lake Region 5, Sickles 1: On a windy evening at Sickles (11-2-3), senior Carlos Sifontes scored the Gryphons’ lone goal in his final prep match. With the wind to their backs, the Thunder led 4-0 after one half and never looked back.
3A: Jesuit 3, Osceola 0: At Jesuit, the Tigers (21-3-4) allowed one shot on goal, which Anthony Bellini cleared off the line. Fellow defenders/midfielders Andy Mahoney, Michael Conlon, Ian Gutierrez and Alex Prada also drew praise from coach Bob Bauman.
Palmetto 4, King 0: At Palmetto, the Tigers coasted past King to set up another chapter in its fledgling rivalry with Jesuit. Palmetto fell to Jesuit 2-1 in overtime in last season’s region semifinals, but defeated the Tampa power by three goals in the 2010 semis.
2A: Berkeley Prep 7, Frostproof 2: At Berkeley Prep, junior Daniel Felman and sophomore Andrew Kenny each scored twice in the Buccaneers’ rout. Quinton Kauchick, Liam Ryan and Tyler Sacone also scored for Berkeley (14-10-2).
A Tampa Prep 5, Shorecrest 0: Nick Brabant and Shaddy Douidar each scored twice for the Terrapins, who reached the region semifinals for the 11th consecutive season. Chris Carnes also scored for the reigning A state champ (19-1-2).
Staff writers John C. Cotey and Bob Putnam, and correspondent Andy Warrener contributed to this report.