TAMPA — There will be an all-Pasco final in Class 4A, District 8, albeit after both Mitchell and Wiregrass Ranch had to hold on for dear life Wednesday at Leto.
Top seed Mitchell (20-2-1) edged Gaither 3-2 in the first semifinal, while No. 2 Wiregrass (19-1-2) overcame a rare deficit to knock out Sickles 2-1. Both Tampa sides saw tying opportunities barely miss.
Mitchell looked on the way to a relatively comfortable win, as Nick Bartkus netted his second goal of the night for a 3-1 lead with 23 minutes left. But things changed when Gaither's Jonathan Dasilva, almost casually, scored on a bicycle kick with 6:30 remaining.
"It was the only shot I had. I got a quick look where the goalie was and I took it. I knew it was in," he said.
Then came what would have been an even more shocking score. With time running out, goalie Carey Ledee-Nicholls left his net, heading into the Mustangs penalty box on a long free kick. Sure enough the ball settled right to his feet — and Ledee-Nicholls blasted a 20-yarder that rang square off the crossbar.
"That was too close," said a Mitchell coach Oscar Ubillus.
Mico Petrovich did not add to his 30-goal total but had a big hand in all three Mitchell scores. He assisted on two and could have been credited with a third. Though he did not touch the ball, Petrovich's brilliant dummy move sucked in three defenders, all as he let the ball roll through his legs to teammate C.J. Kirtley for the first score.
Bartkus made it 2-0 in the 48th minute but Gaither's Jose Perez answered two minutes later.
Though Gaither (4-7-4) only had one district victory during the regular season it did tie Mitchell 1-1. Similarly, Wiregrass had narrowly defeated Sickles 3-2. And the Gryphons (11-5-2) got on top deservedly when Inti Corsa scored from distance in the 19th minute.
But the Bulls came out charging in the second half, and Bryce Wilson scored twice within two minutes to make it 2-1 with a half hour left. A tremendous long carry by hulking forward Matt Bradshaw set up Wilson for the tying goal and Andy Hippley assisted on the winner.
Sickles threw everything it had at Bulls goalie Alex Cypriano, but he made a huge save on one in-close shot and got a major piece of help when Doug Nolting cleared a ball off the line with 16 minutes remaining.
Sickles' Nate Schmidt, who had six shots, found himself unmarked in the final minute before heading wide.
"That game could've gone either way," said Wilson.