ST. PETERSBURG — Entering its sixth straight Class 2A region appearance, Shorecrest expected a relatively easy time of it against first-timers Out-of-Door Academy.
But not until a goal by Jake Crotts off a beautiful feed by Stephen Spanos in the 72nd minute did the home team give a collective sigh of relief, staving off an upset with a 3-1 victory.
"All the tension in the world just went away when that ball went in," Spanos said. "We felt like we could control the game and we did for the first part of it. We kind of took it easy after we scored. We definitely have to play better than this if we want to move on."
Toms Bernhards-Callahan gathered a deflection off a corner kick and rifled in a shot from just inside the penalty box five minutes in. Shorecrest peppered keeper Tim Dobosz with several shots throughout the half but couldn't tally another strike.
"For the first 20 minutes or so, we played great," Shorecrest coach Jeff Diedrich said. "We spread the field, had good one-two touches and created some good opportunities. Then we started playing like it was cold outside and it wasn't until (Out-of-Door) scored did it light a fire under us."
The Chargers defense broke down in the 45th minute when the Thunder's Brad Geisen found a loose ball off a corner kick in the middle of the box and easily put it into the left corner of the net.
Both teams battled back and forth until Crotts saved the day when Spanos split two defenders and found his teammate for the decisive score. Minutes later, Spanos sealed the game after he was fouled in the box and converted his 48th goal of the season on the penalty kick.