TAMPA — Stephen Gathman's first-half strike was the only goal Jesuit would need and the defense took care of the rest as the Tigers defeated visiting Leto 2-0 to capture the 5A-10 district championship Friday night.
"Leto brought it and gave us everything we could handle," coach Bob Bauman said. "They defended us well and put pressure on us."
Tyler Hartlage's strong run out of Jesuit's half set up Gathman's goal 12 minutes in. After losing possession near the 18-yard box, Gathman collected the ball and weaved through three defenders, using his hand on the ground to maintain his balance. The sophomore striker then found himself in the clear near the 6-yard box and easily slotted in his 15th strike of the season.
"When I got through (the defenders), the space just opened up," Gathman said. "I just felt the shot and took it."
Leto applied good pressure early on with some long balls into the attacking third, but was unable to connect. Jesuit keeper Robert Kouwe turned back the Falcons' best chance in the 25 minute, diving to his right to parry away a blast from Neftali Coasta.
But the Tigers' defense withstood the early Leto pressure, remained organized and allowed fewer and fewer opportunities as the match wore on. Sweeper James Crater held the backline strong, limiting the effectiveness of Cesar Camino, the Falcons' most dangerous offensive weapon.
"James has really developed as the year has gone on," Bauman said. "He does a great job of understanding where to position himself and what his role is."
Crater also helped set up the goal that gave Jesuit some breathing room. His free kick found Russell Moore, who chipped a perfect through ball past the Falcons' backline. Austin Hayes ran under it, lofting the ball over the head of Leto keeper Jesse Dickerson in the 73rd minute to put the match away.
Both teams will advance to the playoffs with Jesuit (23-1-1) hosting East Lake on Thursday in the region quarterfinals and Leto (13-9-1) traveling to meet Palm Harbor University.