This evening at 7 in West Palm Beach, the St. Petersburg boys soccer team will attempt to do something no other team in the program's storied history has: win a sectional championship. Only once before have the Green Devils (19-4-2) been to the sectional round. In 1987, an undefeated St. Petersburg team faced Leto for a berth in the Class 3A state soccer tournament.
"I think Leto was the best team in the state that year," St. Petersburg coach Andy Hale said. "We played really well against them.
I think we were probably the second-best team in the state, but I figured they'd probably go on and win it all."
Leto, which also entered the sectional undefeated, bounced the Green Devils by a 3-0 score, then took the state crown for itself.
Today, St. Petersburg faces off against West Palm Beach-Wellington (16-7-1) for the Class 3A, Section III championship. The Green Devils, who have been in four successive district finals, squeaked by Tampa Jesuit 3-2 Tuesday to capture their second Region V title.
"It's going to be tough," Hale said of today's match. "Any team that makes it to the regionals is going to be strong. We'll just do what we can."
Leading the way for St. Petersburg is forward Matt Mustoe, whose 18 goals and 11 assists rank him among Pinellas County's leading boys scorers, and midfielder Brandon Hale, whom the coach calls the team's field general.
"All the kids are focused on this game only," coach Hale said. "We have all learned to take them (games) one at a time. I told them: 'Don't even worry about sectionals.' We don't even know if we're going to get past regionals yet. At this level, it's one loss and you're out. We just play every game as if it's our last."
CCC continues toward record fifth state title
In contrast to St. Petersburg, Class 2A Clearwater Central Catholic has made the sectional tournament something of an annual stop.
CCC athletic director Nick Cavallaro said the Marauders (25-1-3) have made it to this round in each of the past 12 seasons and have won all but two of those games.
CCC, which this year has defeated its three post-season foes by a combined score of 27-0, has won 14 consecutive district championships.
The Marauders have gone a school-record 46 games without a loss.
But starting with today's Section III game, at West Palm Beach-Wellington, just two numbers matter: three and five.
If it wins three more games - tonight's sectional, the Feb. 23 Class 2A state semifinal and the Feb. 24 championship - CCC will become the only school in Florida soccer history to win five state titles. The Marauders (1981, '83, '86, '89) and Class 4A Miami Killian are the only schools ever to win four.
"We're playing more as a team than we have all season," striker Steve Moldal said after scoring two goals in the Marauders' 6-0 win over Admiral Farragut in last week's District 10 final. "If we stay together like this, I don't think anyone can beat us."
"Together" is a word that aptly describes CCC's play in recent games. From the goal to the defense to the midfield to the forward line, the Marauders continually move the ball.
A play that begins as a rolling pass from goalie Kevin Focke to a
defenseman winds up with the ball in the back of an opponent's net.
Communication - oral and physical - is evident in every step the players take.
"I've never seen any team play as well as we've been lately," head coach Jim Harte said after the Marauders' 7-0 Region V win over Palmetto on Tuesday.
"They are so well into their game, it's always just a matter of time," Harte said of the Marauders. "They are playing simply superb soccer."
Class 3A, Section III boys soccer championship Who - St. Petersburg (19-4-2) and West Palm Beach-Wellington (16-7-1).
Where - Wellington Community School, West Palm Beach.
When - Today, beginning at 7 p.m. Players to watch - St. Petersburg: Matt Mustoe, forward; Aksone Phetsadasack, defender; Josh Bellomy, goalkeeper; Rivers Guthrie, midfielder; David Masi, goalkeeper; Justin DeStoppelaire, forward.
Wellington: Mike McPhail, forward; Dean Preston, midfield; Chris Bean, forward.
Admission - $3.
How to get there - Take Highway 60 east from Tampa to U.S. 95. Head south on 95 to Forest Hills Boulevard and turn left. Head west approximately 8 miles into Wellington (look for stone walls). Make a left on South Shore Boulevard. Take South Shore to Greenview Shores Boulevard and turn right. School is 1/4 mile down on the left.
Class 2A, Section III boys soccer championship Who - Clearwater Central Catholic (25-1-3) and North Beach-Benjamin (11-3-2).
Where - Jack Nicklaus Sports Complex, North Palm Beach.
When - Today, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Players to watch - CCC: Kevin Focke, goalkeeper; Brian Siracusa, forward; Doug Martin, forward; John Lannon, forward; Steve Ford, midfielder; Chris Riley, midfielder; Steve Moldal, forward. Benjamin: Paul Morris, forward, John Zaloom, forward, Seth Weiss; Sean Kiltau, defender; Jamie Thomas, midfielder.
Admission - $3.
How to get there - Take Highway 60 east from Tampa to U.S. 95. Head south on 95 to PGA Boulevard and head east approximately 1/2 mile.
Look for Palm Beach County Courthouse. Just east of the courthouse is an access road. Turn right on the access road and go 1/8 mile to the parking lots for the Jack Nicklaus Sports Complex.