PLANT CITY — Durant had gone nearly 350 minutes without surrendering a goal. But it took less than 320 seconds for the Cougars' impressive season to effectively come to an end.
Nationally ranked Melbourne scored twice during a three-minute span in the second half and shut out Durant for just the second time this season, soundly defeating the host Cougars 3-0 in the 6A region finals Friday night.
"They outplayed us," Durant coach Jamin Hollingsworth said. "All the credit goes to them."
The loss brought a record-breaking season to an end. Durant (25-3) won the most matches in the program's history and equaled the farthest the Cougars had gone in the postseason.
The Cougars came in having surrendered just 23 goals in 27 matches but Melbourne attacked early and often, routinely putting Durant's defense under pressure.
The Bulldogs' dominance in the midfield kickstarted their offensive attack as well as making it difficult for Durant to link up with its forwards. Strikers Billy Fanning and Cecil Clarke combined for 47 goals this year, but neither was a factor Friday.
"The midfield has been the strength of this team all season," Melbourne coach Jerry McCabe said. "And when (Durant) tried to play balls over the top, our back line held."
All three Bulldogs (25-2) goals came from set pieces. Off a corner kick in the 10th minute, Melbourne's Ryan Price volleyed in a header for the match's first strike. Bradley Tuggle then connected with Greg Zimmerman in the 46th and 49th off corner kicks.
"They're the best defense we've played all year," Hollingsworth said. "They just didn't make any mistakes all night."