TAMPA — East Bay was finally scored on in the Wharton Invitational, and it was the way the Indians responded to allowing that goal that might have been more impressive than all three of their wins in the tournament.
Less than two minutes after Hillsborough tied the Indians in the 71st minute of their semifinal Wednesday, East Bay (14-2-1) defiantly answered on Forrest Meredith's first goal of the season — a header off a long pass from midfield by Josh Slatton — to move into tonight's final with a 2-1 victory.
"When we get down," Meredith said, "we are a team that can put it in."
Meredith played his first full game of the season, now fully recovered from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee that sidelined him until the tournament. A placekicker on the East Bay football team, he was injured making a tackle.
He looked completely healed Wednesday night. With Slatton preparing to launch his pass from midfield, Meredith knew right where it was going.
"I told him back post," he said, which is where Slatton — who scored on a header in the 17th minute as well — put it and where Meredith, his back to the goal, was able to flick it in for the winner.
"We've done that a few times," said a smiling Meredith of his he and his club teammate.
The Indians will meet Sickles in tonight's final. The Gryphons, 24th in the latest ESPN Rise Fab 50 national rankings, beat King 2-0 on two goals by Matt Brown in the first 14 minutes.
The first came on a header off Patrick Miller's pass, and the second was an easy putaway compliments of Joey Ltief's cross. The Gryphons (18-1-3) have won seven straight matches since suffering their only loss of the season.