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5A-11 boys soccer: East Lake fends off a tough Seminole

CLEARWATER — Having just wrapped up its second district title in three seasons, the East Lake Eagles had one more goal Friday night:

Dousing coach Sergei Stopek with the customary Gatorade shower.

Stopek, however, had other plans, moving out of the way at the last possible second as the bucket and its contents spilled harmlessly to the ground.

"I saw them coming out of the corner of my eye and spun out of the way," said Stopek, while demonstrating his slick evasion tactics.

It was about the only chance the Eagles missed all night.

East Lake managed only five shots on goal but made three of them count to defeat Seminole 3-2 in a 5A-11 district final featuring two teams playing high quality soccer with regionals looming next week.

"It was a battle," Stopek said. "Two teams that were extremely focused. Honestly, the game could have gone either way."

The Eagles' Anthony Giordano made sure the outcome would favor East Lake (17-1-2).

After watching Seminole (15-8-2) equalize on Sean Rafferty's goal in traffic off a throw in with 6:30 remaining in the game, Giordano answered by flicking Brent Merrick's corner kick into goal with the side of his heel for the winner just two minutes later.

"After (Seminole) got that second goal, we didn't give up," Giordano said. "We kept fighting."

In the 66th minute, Giordano struggled to control a pass deep in the box but was able to settle the ball and rip a shot past Seminole goalkeeper Ryan Downey to put East Lake up 2-1.

Seminole's Shane Wixted blasted a perfectly-struck free kick into goal from the edge of the box to get the Warhawks on the scoreboard seven minutes into the second half.

East Lake held a 1-0 halftime advantage after Nicholas Patterson chipped a shot over Downey in the 20th minute with a defender digging at his right hip.

Should both teams win their region openers on Thursday, they'll meet for the fifth time Feb. 9 with the season on the line.

"They found a way to finish," Seminole coach Rick Masi said. "More power to them. I hope we get them again."

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5A-11 boys soccer: East Lake fends off a tough Seminole 01/29/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 29, 2010 10:55pm]

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