PALM HARBOR — It wasn't the most elegant soccer match ever played.
It was uneven, at times even uninspiring.
But in the end, it was all Palm Harbor University needed it to be: a 2-0 victory in the Class 6A-7 final, giving the reigning state champions their second straight district championship.
The Hurricanes got a goal from P.J. McDonald in the seventh minute on a header off a throw in by brother Patrick, and Ben Sweat one-timed a rebound midway through the second half as PHU beat Countryside for the third time this season.
"These guys, everyone out here are teammates (in club ball), this was our fourth time playing them, so there were no surprises," PHU coach Alex Delgado said.
"I told the boys it wasn't going to be pretty."
McDonald's early goal allowed the Hurricanes (17-5-3) to clog the middle and play a more defensive-minded set, giving Countryside problems.
The Cougars (15-9-1) were unable to mount any kind of challenge in the first half, drawing a stern talking to from coach David Sica.
"That had to be the longest first half I've ever seen," Delgado said. "Lots of free kicks, no rhythm …and that's exactly what we wanted."
Three minutes into the second half, Cougars midfielder Mike Lion had a point-blank shot at scoring, but keeper Josh Paul reacted quickly and saved it. While the Cougars managed to outshoot PHU 8-5, none of their other chances were dangerous.
PHU finally put it away with 20 minutes left.
On his first touch since coming back from an injury that sidelined him for three weeks, sophomore Charlie Hales beat a defender to a ball down the side and fired one into the box.
Countryside keeper Hunter Maricle dove for the pass and deflected it right to Sweat's left foot, and he ripped home the clincher.
John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected]