FORT WALTON BEACH — It took Land O’Lakes longer to get introduced by the PA announcer than it did to score in Friday night’s Class 3A state semifinal match against Choctawhatchee.
The Gators won 2-0 to advance to the final on a pair of goals by Josh Davis.
Land O’Lakes played the opening kickoff to the right on a set play and Davis took a pass from Nathan Dalton and sent it into the back of the net 11 seconds in for what proved to be the winner.
“It’s unbelievable,” Davis said. “I did not expect it coming into this. I just wanted to come out here and work hard, and we got our result.”
The win clinched the Gators’ second trip to the state title game. Mark Pearson’s team fell to Fort Myers 3-0 in 1999 in Tallahassee in Land O’Lakes’ only other appearance.
The Gators (23-3-2) dominated the first half, outshooting the Indians (22-4) 9-5 in the first 40 minutes.
“I think it pulled us out of what we wanted to do,” Choctawhatchee coach Chris McDaniel said of the Gators’ quick start.
The Indians picked up the offense in the second half and starting getting shots on goal, none of which came closer than Mikey Lightbourne’s shot off the right post in the 44th minute.
But the Gator defense that has allowed just one goal in their past five matches stood tall.
“Thankfully our defense was terrific,” Pearson said. “Sean Young in the back, Yanci Algarin in the back, our whole back line … fantastic job defensively.”
Davis sealed the win in the 77th minute off an assist from Jake Frahm.
Next week, Land O’Lakes will play for a state title close to home.
“We’re going to have our whole school there,” he said. “It’s going to be so exciting, our adrenaline is going to be out of this world. I’m just so excited.”