TAMPA — Kyle Frudakis fired compliments toward his teammates after Countryside's 2-0 win against Gaither on Wednesday in the Class 4A region quarterfinals.
And why not?
Frudakis scored the only goal that Countryside (15-5) needed in the 39th minute, and the Cougars had to survive only one tense moment after that as they advanced to Saturday's region semifinal.
"The defense has been solid all season," Countryside coach Sean Nolan said. "The defense is the reason why we're here."
Countryside controlled play throughout, limiting Gaither (15-5-2) to minimal offensive chances. The Cowboys' best shot at a goal came in the 53rd minute, when a header by Seth Bos off a corner kick from Jeremy Larios caromed off the middle of the crossbar and would have tied the score. After the attempt, Bos looked skyward — knowing his golden opportunity may have been Gaither's last.
Luke Novell assisted on Frudakis' goal, and gave Countryside some insurance in the 77th minute when he scored on a 10-yard blast after fielding a through ball through the box.
Frudakis scored on a left-footed, 10-yard shot into the left side of the net.
"Without (Novell), it wasn't a goal," Frudakis said. "He poked it to me right in between two guys. I've got to give credit to the two centerbacks — Ivan Godinez and Davis Hughes. They won just about every ball in the air, and without them, I don't think we would be in the position we are now.
"We knew that (Gaither) liked to play physical. So in practice, we practiced being physical, and keeping everything slow."
Nolan said Countryside's game plan was carried out perfectly.
"We knew it was a narrow field," he said. "We prepared for it, and this is the game we expected. We had a very good scouting report. I tried to stress to my guys that whoever worked the hardest was going to win this game."
Gaither coach Trevor Scott said the key moment was Bos' missed header.
"We hit the crossbar when it was 1-nil," he said. "You have to put those away. It was a great season. They're a great bunch of lads and it's sad to see them go."