NEW PORT RICHEY — Dillon Martin created the go-ahead goal, then came in quite handy in the closing seconds to secure Mitchell's 2-1 victory over Land O' Lakes in boys soccer Friday.
With 10 minutes left, Martin played a long ball that was mishandled by Gators goalie Tommy Koen. It came loose to Nick Bartkus, who snuck it inside the left post for the lead.
"I should have punched the ball, but at the last second I opened my hands," said Koen, who 10 minutes before had kept the game tied by stopping Nathaniel Hayes' penalty kick.
Land O' Lakes (8-3) nearly tied it in the last minute. Sean Young's header beat goalie Davis Byrkit, but Martin was there to clear it away from the goal line. The final whistle blew 10 seconds later and the Mustangs improved to 13-3-1.
A chippy tone was set midway through the first half when two Gators left with injuries. Blake Quarishi turned his ankle and did not return. Then Eric Thielbar took an elbow to the face that forced him out for the half.
"Aside from the injuries, you never want to see anyone get hurt; this was the way all games should be, intense. This was great," Mitchell coach Oscar Ubillus said.
Mitchell's first goal resulted from the Gators' frustration over the injuries. Alexander Hediger's sliding tackle, one that earned him a yellow card, gave the Mustangs a direct kick from 40 yards. Mico Petrovich played the ball in high, intending to find Alex Hernandez for a deflection, but everyone whiffed and the ball went in.
Compared to four Gators getting dinged only one Mitchell player missed time, but it was costly, as left back Richie Scott departed early in the second half with an illness. Scott's side is where the Gators struck for their lone goal. With 28 minutes left, Young sent a ball over to Jordan Dollbaum, who was unmarked and scored.
Along with stopping a penalty kick, Koen made another terrific save with 14 minutes left. That led to a breakaway in which Young pushed a Michael Moran cross inches wide. Young had five of the Gators' 16 shots, while the Mustangs recorded nine.
"I wasn't happy with the first half; we just didn't keep possession like we normally do. Even at that, their goal was a fluke," Gators coach Mark Pearson said. "We created most of the chances in the second half."