TAMPA — One of eastern Hillsborough County’s fiercest boys soccer rivalries spilled over in to New Tampa on Wednesday evening, with lanky Bloomingdale junior Austin Spagnola delivering the telling blow.
Make that block.
Spagnola’s deflection of Newsome senior Joey Perfetto’s penalty kick with roughly six minutes remaining preserved the Bulls’ 4-3 victory against their nearby nemesis in the semifinals of the Wharton Invitational.
“I was aiming for the right back post,” said Perfetto, who had a hat trick for the Wolves (9-5-3). “I played it right where I was supposed to. He out-guessed me.”
Bloomingdale (13-1-3) faces Steinbrenner in tonight’s 8 p.m. title game at Wharton High, where the Warriors (13-2-2) will attempt what no squad in this 16-team field has been able to do: shut down Bulls senior Tevin Gage.
The fleet forward had two more goals Wednesday, giving him nine in four tournament games. Less than a minute after Perfetto’s second goal of the night tied the score at 2 in the 43rd minute, Gage scored on a shot from the top of the penalty box.
He made it 4-2 in the 59th minute from nearly the same spot on a breakaway goal before Perfetto — standing in front of the Bloomingdale net — took a header from a Bulls defender and sent it in from roughly 8 yards.
The Bulls held on the final 12 minutes, surviving a string of yellow cards — including two during injury time — and Perfetto’s penalty kick.
“I knew it was going to be this kind of game (against Newsome),” Bulls coach Troy Smith said. “It always is, no matter who we have on the team.”
In Wednesday’s late semifinal, four Steinbrenner players — Anthony Melatti, Connor Fleming, Oli Ortiz and Jason Collister — scored in the Warriors’ 4-1 triumph against Durant.
Fleming, who missed roughly three weeks with a sprained ankle, scored what would be the eventual winner on a first-half rebound shot in front of the net. Less than a minute before, Durant’s Jacob Brumbeloe had tied the score at 1 with a 27th-minute goal.