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MELBOURNE — After they had done the familiar thing — heard the whistle blow on another Class A state soccer championship — the boys from Tampa Prep charged through the rain to the bleachers to celebrate the 1-0 victory with their fans and families.
“It never gets old,” coach Doug Smith said, though his second straight title, Tampa Prep’s sixth in the past nine years, could have been easier. The combination of rain and a slick artificial pitch, and more telling, a determined young team from North Miami Beach Scheck Hillel, gave the Terrapins all they could handle.
Tampa Prep was off running from the start, creating excellent chances early, including two with open nets that went unfinished thanks to the slick pitch and courageous goalkeeping by diminutive sophomore Isi Chocron. He finished with six saves.
Scoreless at the half, Hillel returned goal-minded, and it was Tampa Prep’s chance to turn away every possibility, with most never reaching the box. Going the other way, however, Tampa Prep also continued to be forward thinking, threatening nearly at will but frustrated by the weather — temperatures hovered in the 60s at match time — and slick surface as well as Hillel’s defenders.
“The weather was frigid and the turf field, added to the wetness, definitely was a factor,” defender Henry Perez said.
Finally in the 64th minute, Hillel’s Salo Serfati was issued a caution, after which Shaddy Douidar was given instructions to take the free kick.
“Coach just told me to whip it in there, and I did,” Douidar said.
Macsen Pritchard also was there to add a neat dummy, confusing Chocron, who did not see the ball poked into the net.
“I probably could have gotten a touch on it, but it wasn’t called for, so I let it run,” Pritchard said.
It was what Hillel coach Ben Magidson feared, the Terrapins having taken six shots in each half; Hillel, six in the match.
“You give the state champions chances like that and they are going to score,” he said. “
As the tumult and shouting died, the Terrapins paid tribute to their opponents, too, applauding as they were announced and again after the match.
“They are going to be a good team,” Pritchard said, and Douidar nodded in agreement. “That is a young team, with good players.”
This year, however, the trophy belonged to Tampa Prep, and the crowd, which bellowed ceaselessly through the wind and rain, whooped.
“It feels good,” Perez said before running to embrace his mother. “It feels really good.