LAND O’LAKES — No doubt having the county’s all-time leader for goals in a season is a major part of Sunlake’s success. But the players that surround sophomore Remi Pimm are what make the Seahawks a state-title contender.
With Palm Coast Matanzas focusing its defense on Pimm, Cobi Shirmo got the instrumental opening score Friday in Sunlake’s 3-1 Class 3A, Region 2 final victory. Sunlake earned its second straight trip to the state semis, where last year an undefeated Seahawks squad fell 1-0 to Ponte Vedra.
“I think we’re better this year,” senior captain Austin Goble said. “We know what it’s like and we’re hoping for a different result. Remi has so many goals but we have a lot of other guys who can score too.”
Not that Pimm got left out of the mix. After Shirmo’s goal in the 48th minute, Pimm’s 64th of the season made it 2-0 with 25 minutes left. Then Pimm assisted on Aaron Aucoin’s score for a 3-0 lead. Matanzas got a penalty kick from standout defender Bryan Mejia in the final minutes.
Sunlake (29-1-1) faces Merritt Island on Thursday at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne. Merritt Island knocked out Jesuit 3-0 Friday.
Matanzas (18-4-5), a school that had only one playoff victory before this year (in 2009), showed good skill early but settled into a defensive stance with Mejia and Moises Meza anchoring the middle. Sunlake had no trouble getting into the 18-yard box, with Connor Spencer sending a handful of throw-ins there in the first half, but the Pirates only needed to make one save.
“They were the best defensive team we’ve played,” Sunlake coach Sam Koleduk said. “We had to try some different things against them, moved Remi around. They were obviously aware of Remi.”
The breakthrough came when Aucoin dropped a ball into Shirmo’s wheelhouse, and the junior blasted it into the upper right-hand corner. Pimm headed Spencer’s throw on goal, then it bounced right back to the sophomore staring into an open net.
“At some point, we know our superstar is going to take over,” Goble said.
Aucoin narrowly beat an offside trap and took a pass from Pimm uncontested.
Matanzas’ goal was the culmination of the only downside for Sunlake — silly fouls. The Seahawks committed 16, were carded six times, and the foul that led to the penalty kick came against a player who was headed away from goal.
Spencer’s assist was his 42nd of the year and Shirmo has 24 goals.