TAMPA — If you looked skyward at Sickles' stadium Friday, you might have spotted tiny flurries dancing in the wind beneath the lights. If you looked on the field, you would've spotted something equally surreal.
Seminole upsetting its second nationally ranked foe in four nights.
Seventy-two hours after dismantling season-long nemesis East Lake, the Warhawks played Sickles, 15th in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 poll, to a 1-1 deadlock for 100 minutes before dominating 4-1 in penalty kicks for a 2-1 stunner in Friday's Class 5A region final.
Seminole (17-8-2), winner of three consecutive road playoff games, moved to Friday's 5A state semifinals. So just how does Warhawks coach Rick Masi explain it?
"I don't know if I can," said Masi, whose team topped East Lake 4-0 on Tuesday. "A lot of composure by the team. They showed a lot of heart. I didn't know if we could have another performance like (the East Lake win). We didn't, but we got the win here."
In a contest as physical as the winds were frigid, both teams failed to finish prime scoring opportunities. Examples: Warhawks junior Charles Lynch's header that bounced off the crossbar and Sickles senior Boris Simeunovic's shot toward an empty net that defender Tyler Zulewski lunged to kick away.
Seminole's lone goal came on Shane Wixted's penalty kick in the 28th minute. Sickles tied it in the first minute of the second half when Matt Brown broke down the right side and beat Ryan Downey to the left corner of the net.
Downey redeemed himself in the best-of-five penalty kick round, lunging right to stop Carlos Rodriguez and Gil Davis. Meantime, Sean Rafferty, Troy Cobb, Darcy Finnegan and Christian McHale converted against Gryphons senior Brandon Stout.
Three nights earlier, Stout shut out Gaither in penalty kicks. One night earlier, Downey practiced penalty kicks for roughly 30 minutes. How sharp was he then?
"Definitely not as sharp as I was tonight," he said.