CLEARWATER — It may have been a collection of all-stars, but it sure seemed like a playoff game.
Playing in front of a good-sized crowd at Countryside High on Saturday night, the Pinellas County boys all-star team claimed a 4-3 victory over the Hillsborough all-stars in the 17th annual Senior Soccer Challenge.
The intense action came down to a flurry of activity by Hillsborough in the final minutes, but Pinellas breathed a sigh of relief once the final whistle blew. It also secured a sweep for Pinellas, as the girls team won 2-0.
"I was waiting for that clock to tick down," said Seminole midfielder Shane Wixted, who scored the first goal for Pinellas and earned the Pinellas County Most Valuable Player award. "It was a great way to end my high school career. We really wanted to represent Pinellas County, and we had it in our mind to come out with a victory."
After Tampa Prep's Wes Sever scored with four minutes left in the game, it seemed as if Hillsborough might even things up, but the Pinellas defense and Palm Harbor University keeper Josh Paul held on.
Tampa Catholic's Andrew Buckley put Hillsborough up 1-0 early in the first half with a one-timer past Dunedin keeper Andrew Hindman. After Wixted tied the game, Pinellas took the lead when Palm Harbor University midfielder P.J. McDonald assisted on a goal by Northeast's Troy Pruitt.
In the second half, Newsome's Steven Gonzalez tied things up when he one-timed a cross from Armwood's Jesus Torres. Soon after, Lakewood midfielder Hamza Eltomani gave Pinellas the lead again.
The clinching goal then came on an own goal by Hillsborough.
The Hillsborough MVP was given to Tampa Prep's Anthony Baumann.
On the girls' side, Pinellas won 2-0 with Palm Harbor University's Catherine Brinkman scoring a goal and assisting on another — to her teammate Zoe Lombard.
Brinkman earned the Pinellas County's MVP award, and Amy Werdine earned the MVP for Hillsborough.
"My sisters finished their careers in the all-star game, and I envisioned myself doing the same thing," said Brinkman, who will take her game to Elon College next year.