TARPON SPRINGS — It took Tarpon Springs a while to buy into new coach Kevin Sugar's system. Almost too long.
A sub-.500 regular season turned into the Spongers' first district title in 17 years. And after hobbling through the opening 20 minutes Thursday against Bradenton Southeast, Tarpon Springs turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 victory in a Class 3A region quarterfinal.
Now at 6-9-2, the Spongers move on.
"We didn't have our heads on straight at the start of the game," Tarpon's Diogo Rodrigues said. "We had to raise up our energy, play with heart."
To a man, the elevated effort was all Tarpon needed. Rodrigues sent eight shots at Southeast (11-9-2), and the pressure was contagious.
Sophomore T.J. Korfias negotiated his way into taking and converting a tying direct kick from 10 yards with 18:30 left.
"I felt it," Korfias said. "I knew I could score on it, and the guys backed me up."
Then Kosta Pseftelis rose up.
After a potential tying goal late in the first half was nullified due to a foul, the senior didn't let his second chance go to waste. A corner kick skittered off a teammate to Pseftelis dead-center from 20 yards, and he one-timed it past the left post with 13 minutes left for the winner.
"I had a bunch of goals taken back," Pseftelis said. "And I had to smack it home."
Peter Kouskoutis' first-half goal slowed Southeast's momentum. Then sophomore Ali Tajik converted a cross-net corner kick from Rodrigues to continue Tarpon's comeback.
"We tried to bring in the style of play we had when we played here: fast, aggressive, with passion and, most of all, pride," said Sugar, who helped Tarpon win a district title in 1991. "The kids started to buy into the system halfway through the season, and everything changed in the districts."
Jesuit 8, Dunedin 0: The host Tigers scored 20 seconds into the first half and 20 seconds into the second half. "We … came out ready to go," Jesuit coach Eric Sims said. Daryian Flores had a hat trick for Jesuit (14-4-3). Jacob Vila, Jacob Starnes, Stephen Huetz, Peter Johnson and James Serrano also scored.
CCC 2, Mulberry 1 PK: The visiting Marauders gave up the tying goal with 15 minutes left but prevailed 4-1 in penalty kicks. The game was scoreless at halftime, but the Marauders went ahead when Kevin Harris scored with 21 minutes remaining on an assist from Spencer Courville Taylor. In penalty kicks, Harris, Matt Dunn, Will Moorhead and Alex Thompson scored and goalkeeper Dominic Grchan came up with two saves.
Berkeley Prep 4, Lake Placid 1: Liam Ryan volleyed in a loose ball off of a corner kick in the first minute for the host Bucs. "I thought that first goal gave us that little lift," Bucs coach Tim Cooper said. Berkeley (8-10-5) added a header by Stanford volleyball signee Kyle Dagostino and a goal each by Quinton Kauchick and Andrew Kenny to earn its 18th playoff victory under Cooper.
Shorecrest 8, Bishop McLaughlin 0: From Chris Lovesky's goal two minutes in to Max Ford's goal triggering the mercy rule, host Shorecrest was in total control.
Lovesky scored twice. Robert Zolper, Luke Peterson, K.J. Nekvasil and Chris Howd scored first-half goals. Shorecrest travels to Carrollwood Day for Tuesday's region semifinal.
Shorecrest has played Carrollwood Day twice this season, winning 1-0 on the road and 3-2 at home.
"They are a very tough team, and it's a pretty difficult field to play on," Shorecrest coach Milen Gaganelov said. "But I feel like our guys are peaking at the right time.
"And tonight I saw a lot of things that made me happy."
Lovesky scored both goals within the first 15 minutes and erased what little drama there might have been. Shorecrest has won 11 straight games.
"We're just focused on getting to state and winning it all," Lovesky said. "That's been our goal from the beginning.
"Last year, we lost in this game. But this year, I think we've got the team to go all the way."
Gaganelov made mass substitutions in the second half as Drew Hupp scored midway through before Ford ended the game with 11 minutes remaining.
"Our subs came in, and they played very well on defense," Gaganelov said. "That was a real positive. Everyone is focused and playing well right now."
Carrollwood Day 3, IRC 2 OT: The visiting Golden Eagles (11-10-1) almost pulled the upset. The Patriots (17-4-1) are coached by longtime CCC coach Jim Harte.
Times staff writer Rodney Page and correspondent Corey Long contributed to this report.