TAMPA — The razors are a rite of February. In accordance with their program’s custom, Tampa Prep’s boys soccer players are taking the good with the bald these days.
The afternoon following their region final victory against Windermere Prep, the Terrapins convened at a Hyde Park clip joint, where three stylists joined forces to sculpt mohawks of varying extremes and colors for their teenage patrons.
“The moment we’re in (the final four) it’s, ‘Let’s go get the mohawk,’ ” senior defender Macsen Pritchard said.
A UNC-Wilmington signee, Pritchard went conservative, as usual. Because his sides weren’t shaved down to a glossy fineness, a less conspicuous darkened strip runs vertically atop his scalp.
“I’ve never gone too extreme with it,” he said.
Not that he hasn’t had several chances. Fact is, Pritchard may be the foremost mohawk authority this side of Mr. T. Thursday, the 6-foot-2 co-captain will try to join that elite Terrapins fraternity of three-time state champions.
“I had a couple of (teammates) my freshman year who were seniors who had three (titles),” said Pritchard, named after the sword-wielding Prince Macsen immortalized in King Arthur literature.
“It’s great to be able to follow in their footsteps and do it for myself.”
A career defender, Pritchard will arrive at Melbourne High — site of Thursday’s Class A final against North Miami Beach’s Scheck Hillel Community School — with fanfare as subtle as his haircut.
Fellow captain Shaddy Douidar (30 goals, eight assists) has produced glitzier numbers during his breakthrough senior year, and junior center midfielder Michael Spezza (15 goals, nine assists) has sparkled as the de facto quarterback of Tampa Prep’s attack.
But few defenders in Florida may possess the versatility — and value — of the 180-pound Pritchard, fifth-year coach Doug Smith insists.
“From what I’ve seen, I think he’s the best attacking defender in the state,” said Smith, seeking his third title as Terps coach.
“Maybe there are some guys that are playing academy that aren’t playing in high school, but I haven’t seen a (prep) defender that attacks as well as he does.”
Employed at both the traditional sweeper spot and right back during the Terrapins’ playoff run, Pritchard’s ability to create and thwart rushes with equal proficiency is corroborated by his numbers (nine goals, nine assists).
In five career matches against Jesuit, he has four goals. In the region semifinals against St. Stephen’s — the foe that denied him any crack at a four-peat — he scored the equalizer in an eventual 2-1 win.
“He’s really big and strong and when he wins the ball he can pass out,” Spezza said. “He has good skill, so he can play out with it, and a lot of defenders can’t; they just have to kick it.”
At Tampa Prep, solid passing — be it of the torch or ball — is a prerequisite. Pritchard recalls that ugly 3-0 loss to St. Stephen’s in the 2011 playoffs as being equal parts unacceptable and unseemly.
To reach this juncture isn’t enough. Thursday, Pritchard and his fellow seniors will remind their teammates the only thing the Terrapins are expected to lose at this stage is hair.
“Since I’ve been here, the experience is, you just don’t lose,” Smith said.
“Our plans are always to go to the state finals,” Pritchard added. “That’s always our expectation and I think that was passed down to me since my freshman year winning it. It was always an expectation to win the state championship.”
Another banner year?
Tampa Prep seeks its sixth boys soccer state title in nine years Thursday. A look at that stretch:
Year Coach Record Final result
2005 Jose DaCosta 18-9-4 2A state champs
2006 Jose DaCosta 22-5-3 Lost in 2A state semifinals
2007 Jose DaCosta 27-3-2 2A state champs
2008 Jose DaCosta 27-2-2 2A state champs
2009 Doug Smith 13-5-4 Lost in 2A region finals
2010 Doug Smith 19-4-2 2A state champs
2011 Doug Smith 17-5-1 Lost in 2A region semifinals
2012 Doug Smith 19-4-1 A state champs
2013 Doug Smith 24-1-3 TBD
Joey Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeyHomeTeam.