TAMPA — First-year Jesuit coach Eric Sims entered the Class 3A, District 9 tournament with several unanswered questions about his team.
"We've been up and down all year," Sims said. "We've had really, really good performances and some not-good performances."
Wednesday night was one of the really good ones.
His Tigers scored five goals in the first 15 minutes to kick-start an 8-0 mercy-rule victory at home over Spoto. Jesuit (12-4-3) advances to Friday's final against Bradenton Southeast (11-7-2), which eliminated Robinson 1-0.
Jesuit's ninth consecutive playoff appearance was never in doubt. Jacob Starnes rocketed a shot past Spoto in the second minute as the Tigers racked up 15 shots on goal before the first water break.
"How fast they started shows these guys are pretty hungry," Sims said. "Hopefully we're peaking at the right time."
Stephen Huetz had a hat trick for Jesuit, and Jacob Vila added two goals. Paul Anderson and Alejandro Cartaya scored a goal apiece, and Edwin Nieves had 16 saves for Spoto.
In the other semifinal, Robinson (6-10-1) struggled early but kept the Seminoles scoreless at halftime. Southeast broke through in the 68th minute, when Arlen Rivas knocked in a Benjamin Hoyle free kick.
The Knights had two late chances on Ryan Tahiri free kicks, but Southeast headed the first one out of the box, and the second sailed harmlessly past the net. Omar Shoubaki had eight saves in the loss for Robinson.
4A-8 at Leto: There will be an all-Pasco final in 4A-8, albeit after both Mitchell and Wiregrass Ranch had to hold on for dear life at Leto.
Top seed Mitchell (20-2-1) edged Gaither 3-2, while No. 2 Wiregrass (19-1-2) overcame a rare deficit to knock out Sickles 2-1. Both Tampa sides saw tying opportunities barely miss.
Mitchell looked on the way to a relatively comfortable win, leading 3-1 with 23 minutes left. But things changed when Gaither's Jonathan Dasilva, almost casually, scored on a bicycle kick with 6:30 remaining.
"It was the only shot I had. I got a quick look where the goalie was and I took it. I knew it was in," he said.
With time running out, goalie Carey Ledee-Nicholls left his net, heading into the Mustangs' penalty box on a long free kick. Sure enough the ball settled right to his feet — and Ledee-Nicholls blasted a 20-yarder that rang square off the crossbar.
"That was too close," said a Mitchell coach Oscar Ubillus.
Jose Perez also scored for Gaither (4-7-4).
In the other semifinal, Sickles (11-5-2) got on top when Inti Corsa scored in the 19th minute.
But the Bulls came out charging in the second half, and Bryce Wilson scored twice within two minutes to make it 2-1 with a half hour left.
Sickles' Nate Schmidt, who had six shots, found himself unmarked in the final minute before heading wide.
2A-9 at St. Petersburg Catholic: Clearwater Central Catholic avoided penalty kicks, as Kevin Harris scored with 16 seconds remaining in the second overtime for a 1-0 victory over Tampa Prep that propels CCC (8-6-4) to Friday's championship match against Berkeley Prep. The Buccaneers (6-10-5) advanced with a 1-0 win over host St. Petersburg Catholic.
The second semifinal was nearly identical to the first. With three minutes left, Berkeley Prep's Will Sibson scored the winner. It was Sibson's second goal of the tournament.
"I was in the very back, just waiting for the ball," Sibson said. "When it came to me, I put it in with all that I had. It was a big play for us."
Times staff writer Bob Putnam and correspondent Darek Sharp contributed to this report.