TRINITY — The local dominance of Land O'Lakes has been well-documented.
And for years, Mitchell had grown extremely tired of reading about it.
That's what made Tuesday's 3-2 victory in a Class 4A semifinal even more special.
For the first time in program history the Mustangs advanced to a region final, getting there by defeating their nemesis. And for most of these 17 seniors, it was their first victory against the Gators.
The Mustangs will travel Friday to Celebration, a 2-1 winner against Ocala Vanguard. The winner advances to the final four.
"We've always been put second to them in the county," Mitchell forward Alex Wegener said of Land O'Lakes. "This year we showed who really deserves to be on top. We did that today with this win."
Wegener gave Mitchell (23-2-3) a huge lift, capitalizing on a Land O'Lakes (18-4-2) turnover. He found the attempted back pass in stride, blasting it past Gators keeper Kody Parker for a 1-0 lead in the third minute.
"Honestly, it was pretty much a gift," Wegener said. "I like gifts so I put it away."
Less than five minutes later, Mitchell forward Jason Leslie tipped in a cross next to the goal line for a 2-0 lead.
"It gave us confidence right away," Mitchell coach Oscar Ubillus said. "I didn't tell them, but I was hoping we would get a goal early to settle our nerves. It didn't really happen with the nerves part, but it gave me and them confidence."
In what proved to be the difference, Mitchell made it 3-0 in the second half on a goal from defender Chris McVeigh, who had moved up on the cross to fire a clean shot off his foot.
The Gators moved Tim Falcon from defense to offense to generate more scoring chances in the final 40 minutes, and the strategy worked. Land O'Lakes scored its first goal thanks to a penalty kick from Nathan Dalton. Then Falcon ripped a free kick from 25 yards past Mitchell keeper Josh Berres.
But Berres came up with a huge save with less than eight minutes left, taking a clean shot away from Jon Wilkinson. Then a cross by Falcon just missed the foot of Jake Frahm for what could have been the tying goal.
"They started out faster than we did when they got those early goals," Gators coach Mark Pearson said. "From there it was a comeback situation, which took us out of our game."
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.