WESLEY CHAPEL — In its first home playoff game, Wiregrass Ranch set the bar pretty high for those to follow. The Bulls scored two goals within the first three minutes and defeated Lakeland Kathleen 5-2 in Thursday's Class 4A region quarterfinal.
Wiregrass (21-1-2) will either host Mitchell or travel to Lake Region next, depending on what happens when those teams play today.
The Bulls blitzed Kathleen (20-5-2) right away, with Matt Bradshaw heading in a goal off Andy Hippley's cross just 31 seconds in. At the 2:33 mark, Bryce Wilson drove in a free kick to make it 2-0.
But Kathleen nearly had the game tied before 10 minutes were up. Kathleen sophomore Andrew Yarnell's 21st goal made it 2-1, then the Red Devils were fouled just inside the penalty box. Gil Mata Jr. lined up for the penalty kick, only to be denied on a brilliant dive from Bulls goalie Alex Cypriano.
Along with Chris Faddoul's insurance goal for a 4-2 lead in the 59th minute, that save was a pivotal moment in the game.
"I think that got everyone back up," Cypriano said. "When (Mata) lined up so far off to one side, I knew he was going to fake one way and go the other."
Sean Sourk took a cross from Wilson and made it 3-1 in the 23rd minute, but Kathleen set the tone for another nervous Bulls stretch when Juan Francisco (22 goals) roofed one shortly before halftime.
Faddoul's goal was set up by Edgardo Martinez just minutes after he entered the game for the first time. Martinez hadn't played in two weeks.
"Our outside mids were getting tired and, not that I think I'm Nostradamus or anything, but I had a feeling he could create something. That goal was all his doing," Wiregrass Ranch coach David Wilson said.
Devi Ndrita completed the scoring before the last 10 minutes devolved into chippy play. A handful of cards were given out for dissension.
"Fortunately we didn't get any silly red cards," said Bryce Wilson.
The sense from Wiregrass is that Mitchell will be Tuesday's opponent in what would be a stellar region semifinal. A win would give the Bulls an even 100 in program history, with David Wilson at the helm the entire way.
"We only had 17 total the first three years, so the last five years have been pretty good," he said.
Shorecrest 8, Bishop McLaughlin 0: From Chris Lovesky's goal two minutes in to Max Ford's goal to trigger the mercy rule, host Shorecrest was in total control of its Class A region quarterfinal against Bishop McLaughlin.
Lovesky scored twice while Robert Zolper, Luke Peterson, K.J. Nekvasil and Chris Howd all scored first-half goals as the Chargers rolled to a 8-0 victory. Shorecrest will travel 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 of his 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 states 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 the period before Ford ended the game with 11 minutes remaining.
"Our subs came in and they played very well on defense," Gaganelov added. "That was a real positive from tonight's game. Everyone is focused and playing well right now."
Corey Long, Times correspondent