LUTZ — To the delight of Gaither coach Eric Sims, the Cowboys spent the first 45 minutes of Saturday's district final insuring themselves against one of Freedom's second-half surges.
And senior Jonas Bukh represented the proverbial policy.
On a chilly Saturday evening, Bukh scored two goals and the Cowboys (17-4-1) survived a late Patriots charge for a 3-2 victory and the Class 4A, District 8 title.
Gaither had a 3-1 lead when Patriots junior Jett Wright scored on a rebound off a free kick in the 75th minute. But Freedom, winner of six in a row entering the game, came up short on its final rushes and set pieces.
"They're a good second-half team, and I knew they were going to come out with a lot of emotion," Sims said. "So when we got our third goal I knew we were in good shape, but they just don't quit."
That third goal came in the 44th minute on a blast inside the penalty box by Bukh, who spent two seasons at Gaither but moved to his native Denmark for his junior year before returning.
He had given the Cowboys a 2-0 lead on a 7-yard shot from the left corner of the goal box in the 19th minute, but Evan Kruk's penalty kick cut Freedom's deficit to one before halftime.
Gaither's first goal came in the 17th minute on Justin Santos' header off a Tyler Helm cross.