Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

Wiregrass moves to head of the class

WESLEY CHAPEL — It's a play even the most frequent soccer observer might not see in a hundred games.

Wiregrass Ranch freshman midfielder Chris Faddoul had no chance at getting his head, much less his feet, to a ball that was bounding past him at a good rate. So what did Faddoul try, at great risk of humiliation?

"It's called a scorpion kick," he said.

That's when a player takes his right leg and whips it behind him, extending it to about head level and hoping for contact. Not only did Faddoul hit the ball, he nailed it upfield a good 20 yards.

Seems things are working out pretty well for the Bulls these days. They are undefeated (5-0-1) and officially stamped as one of the North Suncoast's best after Monday's dramatic 2-2 draw against top dog Sunlake. The Seahawks hadn't been tied in the regular season since January 2012.

What's just as notable, Wiregrass Ranch expected it. The scorpion kick, which for the record Faddoul practices but had never tried in a game, came during a recent 4-1 victory over Springstead (7-1).

Thus with confidence high heading into Sunlake, Wiregrass fell behind 2-0. Instead of moping, it pressed like mad the final half hour. Tristan Hart had the equalizer with five minutes remaining.

"To come from down 2-0 against such a dangerous team, it almost feels like a win," coach Dave Wilson said.

He saw it coming. In what sounded like an overly bold statement after the Springstead game, Wilson told his group it was just as good as Sunlake.

"We have some things to work on, but we're a good team. This is our year," said second-leading scorer Andy Hippley.

Key players Bryce Wilson, Hart, Matt Bradshaw, Sean Sourk and goalie Alex Cypriano are seniors.

Bryce Wilson is the centerpiece. He has a team-high eight goals, including a 30-yard blast against Springstead — "I feel comfortable from that distance" he said. But the coach's son is also charged with pulling the team together.

"We definitely can be better," he said. "We have to work on the chemistry part. I'm trying to get them to talk more."

The group of freshmen and sophomores can be hesitant to take charge. Even Bradshaw, an imposing, physical player equally able to head up the defense or charge forward, can improve in that aspect.

"Good kid, great student. You never hear him say a word," Dave Wilson said.

Silence is not always good in soccer. Against Springstead, Bradshaw and a teammate converged on a ball just outside the penalty box and did not communicate. The ball eventually got intercepted. Then again, he saved a goal with a clearance and set up two penalty kicks by getting fouled.

It would seem Wiregrass can only trend upward. J.T. Spana (two games, four goals) is on a red-card suspension. Neither he nor Bradshaw (flu) played against Sunlake.

It doesn't hurt that state runnerup Steinbrenner departed the district. Mitchell joins Wiregrass in otherwise Hillsborough-centric 4A-8, where Sickles, which needed penalty kicks to knock off the Bulls in last year's district semifinal, is the other most formidable foe.

"It's a tough district, but no doubt we can compete with those teams," Bryce Wilson said.

Wiregrass returns to action Monday at Wesley Chapel — with a bit of a target on its back.

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