TAMPA — It was the region semifinals but it was hard to tell by Gaither's workmanlike approach.
In fact, coach Eric Sims said his squad didn't really show any emotion until the last of its three goals Tuesday night.
Gaither has more soccer to play after a 3-1 win at home against Naples Gulf Coast in the Class 5A region semifinals.
"It's been kind of our thing to get a lead and just sit back," Sims said. "I thought we were asleep in the first half tonight. Our first 20 minutes looked like preseason. But it was a better second half for us, and I'm glad to be in the (region) finals."
Still, Gaither owned the ball decidedly early and scored the opening goal midway through the first half. Senior forward Zachary Wheeler collected a looping pass in the box from about 20 yards out and redirected it into the net past Gulf Coast goalkeeper Eric Scott.
The Cowboys (17-4-3) awoke in the second half and finished their chances, scoring two goals.
After a Justin Santos header on a Wheeler corner kick put Gaither up 2-0, the Cowboys seemed primed to run away with the contest.
But the Sharks (8-10-5) continued to push the ball into the Gaither box and it paid off with a penalty kick halfway through the second half.
But Gaither managed to do just enough — and then some — to keep Gulf Coast at bay.
And the Cowboys then put the game away in stoppage time when Jordan See made a perfect pass to Steffan Siebel-Cortopassi.