ST. PETERSBURG — It sprinted to a fast 10-0 start, stumbled over the holidays and struggled to catch its breath this week, leaving Pinellas Park coach Chip Bruce to wonder.
"After the fifth or sixth win, maybe the spark had gone," he said.
If so, it might have been relit Friday night.
With the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Class 5A, District 12 tournament on the line and trailing by a goal at the final water break with 20 minutes remaining, the Patriots unleashed an inspired outburst to overtake Northeast in a 5-3 road victory.
The Patriots (12-2) got goals from Brandon Andrews, Thirasaik Boonneangrsi and Matt Olver in a 10-minute span to snatch a victory away from the Vikings.
"They brought it all together," Bruce said.
"They were determined to show who the better team was. I told them at the water break if you guys want to have a chance to be the No. 1 seed, you need to pull this out."
At that point, the Vikings (7-5) were in control, having wiped out a 2-0 deficit with three straight goals. Victor Saucedo tied the score up shortly after halftime. And with 23 minutes left, Kyle Apperson left a pass that Lucas Villarreal was able to run up on and bury to give Northeast the 3-2 lead.
"We knew they would come back," Andrews said. "They fell behind, and I think we started getting lazy."
But four minutes later, Andrews used his left foot to tie the score from short range. And a few minutes after that, Jordan Kaylor headed a Blake Andrews corner kick toward the goal, where Boonneangsri was waiting to head it into the net for a 4-3 Patriots lead.
Northeast keeper Marino Pavicic was able to stop a handful of point-blank attempts as the Patriots tried to finish things off. But Pinellas Park finally got one through when Olver scored on an assist from Blake Andrews in the 80th minute.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.