BROOKSVILLE — Central was looking to do something on Friday night no team has done this season: defeat Springstead.
The undefeated Eagles escaped the Bear Den without a blemish on their record as the programs battled to a 1-1 tie in the competitive Class 5A, District 7 contest.
"(The players) were eager to play (Springstead)," Central coach Alex Viramontes said. "Because of that I think they left it all out on the field."
From the drop of the ball, Central (4-2-1) was determined to strike first. The Bears dominated time of possession for much of the first half and came away with the opening score when Gage Brooks hit a streaking Omar Odulaja for his eighth goal of the season.
However, it was Springstead's Joey LaSala's play in net that kept the Eagles (6-0-2) fighting. Central pounded shot after shot at the keeper, and he continued to sprawl for saves. He finished with seven, five of them coming in the first half.
"Joey has been between the pipes since he was a freshman," Springstead coach Sal Calabrese said. "He's really stepping up his game now that he has college on his mind."
As the clock wound to stoppage time, Springstead was able to tie the game as Jay DeInnocentiis knocked in a loose ball that was bouncing around in the crease.
The second half became physical and emotional as neither team could score or find a way to possess the ball deep in the other team's zone. A scuffle broke out at midfield with less than five minutes remaining in regulation that resulted in red cards for Odulaja and Springstead's Nathan Leathers.
With one final chance to break the tie, the Eagles were called for a foul deep on Central's side of the field. Odulaja, the team's leading scorer, had one free kick before time ran out. He blasted a shot right at LaSala to end the game.
"We have been practicing those kind of shots all week," Viramontes said. "I was hoping he could close the deal."