Berkeley Prep's boys soccer team has the spotlight as the lone program from the area — boys or girls — playing in a state championship game. The Buccaneers (21-3-3) face Melbourne West Shore (20-4) in the Class 2A state final Thursday at 4 p.m. in Deland. Here are five things to know about Berkeley Prep's state title appearance.
1. Familiar opponent: This is the first time Berkeley Prep has played in a state title game since 2012. The opponent in that game? West Shore. The Wildcats won 3-2 in double overtime for their only state championship. In fact, that season was the only time West Shore had ever won a playoff game until its recent run.
2. Cooper's quest: The Bucs have won four state titles, the last coming in 2004. Tim Cooper was not coaching the team at that time. He was hired during 2006-07 season and has had an impressive run with two state championship game appearances (2009, '12) and two other trips to the state semifinals (2013, '14). But he has never won it all. If Berkeley Prep prevails, it will move into a tie with Plantation American Heritage, Miami Gulliver Prep and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas for the fifth-most state titles in state history with five.
3. Dynamic duo: Ethan Judge and J.T. Copper are two newcomers the Bucs did not expect to have this season. Judge, a sophomore midfielder, and Copper, a freshman forward, played for Tampa Bay United's under-14 academy development team. They were too old to continue playing for that developmental team and decided to play high school soccer for the first time. Cooper said he first noticed Judge during tryouts when he showed off his speed and endurance during fitness tests. Both continued to impress with their technical savvy throughout tryouts. "It's fun to watch," Cooper said.
4. Coming through: Berkeley Prep has nine players who endured the heartbreak of losing in the district finals each of the past two seasons. Several are solid contributors such as junior forward Bailey Forsmans (10 goals) and junior defender Ezrick Nicholls, who has already committed to North Carolina. "We're more connected with each other this season," Forsmans said. "We were motivated to get past districts. I knew we could go far, but I didn't know we could make it as far as we have." To win, the Bucs will have to contain Amugo Chukwunenye, who has a team-leading 17 goals for West Shore this season.
5. Scholar athletes: Berkeley Prep was the overall Class 4A champion in the classroom last year (highest team grade-point averages among boys and girls programs). Boys soccer continues to be a strong contributor. Two starters, Jeff Guttentag and Spencer Sherman, hold unweighted GPAs of 3.8.