LITHIA — Newsome made no secret that its entire season hinged on beating Lakeland George Jenkins. For three straight years, the Wolves' season ended at the hands of the Eagles in the region tournament.
From the infancy of this season, players would tell themselves during end-of-practice conditioning sessions, "This is how we beat George Jenkins."
And in Friday night's Class 5A region final, a rare contest between nationally-ranked teams that drew about 2,500 fans, the Wolves finally got redemption.
Newsome (24-0), ranked No. 4 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50, ended the third-ranked Eagles' (22-1-1) season 2-1.
"That's been their focal point, and they weren't going to let anything get in the way of that," said Newsome coach Kelly Townsend. "I know that was going through their heads. It was like practice."
The Wolves are back at state for the first time since 2007.
"That championship is in our sights and there's nothing that's going to stop us," Townsend said.
The win didn't come easily, despite running out to a 2-0 lead. Newsome scored early in the fourth minute, when sophomore Taylor Decaire booted a loose ball right in front of the goal.
The Wolves added another two minutes into the second half when Decaire made a run toward the goal and was taken down in the box, leading to Shea Rhoney's penalty-kick goal just past keeper Caitlyn Currie.
But Jenkins scored quickly in the 44th minute on Tory Abnathy's goal. And that's when memories of past failures came flooding back for the seniors, who saw the Eagles come back from a 2-1 second-half deficit to win when they were freshmen.
Newsome, however, wouldn't be denied. Though the Eagles dominated most of the second-half attack, they finished with just four shots on goal.
"It feels awesome to finally be on the other end," said Newsome senior center-midfielder Karina Gutsche. "It's been a battle. I think it was our turn. …For me, they had something to lose. We were the ones always losing to them. It was our time to shine."