ST. PETERSBURG — All season, Pinellas Park has been searching for a signature victory to prove it deserves to be mentioned among the county's elite.
This week, the Patriots got a double dip of noteworthy wins.
A day after knocking off St. Petersburg 4-1, the Patriots handed Northeast its first loss of the season. Pinellas Park broke out to a 2-0 lead, knocked a ball into its own goal to cut its lead in half, then held on over a tense final 10 minutes Friday to secure a 2-1 triumph.
The win avenges a season-opening loss to the Vikings (6-1-2) and leaves the Patriots with a 3-0 mark in district (5A-12).
"Overall, we played very hard," Pinellas Park coach Chip Bruce said. "If we can finish our opportunities and put the ball in the back of the net, our team will be complete."
In the game's 68th minute, Northeast's Kyle Apperson raced down the right wing and sent a cross into the box that deflected off a Pinellas Park defender and into the Patriots' goal to bring the Vikings within a score.
The Patriots (6-1-2) had chances to shake off the error and put Northeast away late but had one shot deflect off the left post; another cleared off the line by a Northeast defender.
With three minutes remaining, Northeast looked to equalize but a one-time touch in front of the goal sailed well over the crossbar.
Pinellas Park's Billy Vasquez scored what would prove to be the winner with 23 minutes left when a mad scramble in front of the goal resulted in the senior forward gathering the ball in front of the net. Vasquez was true from close range to register his 13th goal of the season.
"It just kind of came to me, and I put it away," Vazquez said.
Pinellas Park grabbed a 1-0 advantage in the first half after Thomas Meyer threaded a long pass from the left wing through the box and just out of reach for the Vikings' defense. Blake Andrews latched onto the end of the pass on the back post and slid it past Vikings goalkeeper Marino Pavacic (nine saves) for the score with 19 minutes gone in the first half.