Once again, a trip to Florida's east coast was no day at the beach forthe Gulf High boys soccer team. The Bucs lost 4-2 to host Seabreeze High on Friday in the Class 3A, Region II championship match - their second straight loss at that level.
Todd Becker and Jimmy Blake each scored twice as Gulf allowed as many goals as in its previous 10 matches.
"That's what intensity does for you," Gulf coach Ron Barnett said. "Their goals were all-out hustle. They didn't work the ball like we did, but they sat back and played for the sure thing."
Seabreeze (21-0-1) will compete in the Class 3A final four next weekend in Tampa. The semifinals are scheduled for Friday at Pepin-Rood Stadium, on the University of Tampa campus. The championship is next Saturday.
Gulf finished 17-3-3. Last year, the Bucs lost 1-0 to Satellite Beach in teh Region II match.
The Bucs did win their second consecutive Gulf Coast Conference and 3A-District 8 crowns.
Play was mired at midfield for the first 20 minutes Friday, but Seabreeze led in close calls 3-2. The Sandcrabs had three open-goal opportunities before they finally scored, and the Bucs had solid shots on goal from Brent Whaley and Tim D'Amico.
Seabreeze gradually pushed the action toward the front of the Gulf goal and took a 1-0 lead with 22:27 elapsed from the clock. Todd Becker crossed a long pass to the far left post. The ball grazed the post, and Mike Phillips tapped it into the goal.
Fourteen minutes later, the Sandcrabs boosted their advantage to 2-0. Ryan Scott controlled a loose ball and pushed it toward Becker.
The pass drew Gulf goalie Chris Saradin out of the box, and Becker booted the ball past him for the score with 3:35 left in the first half.
The Bucs got a confidence boost at the 50:16 mark, when Todd Shaw set up Fred Afriat close to the goal with a pass. Afriat rocketed a shot into the nets to cut the Sandcrabs' lead to 2-1.
The uplift Gulf received from that score was dulled when Seabreeze forward Jimmy Blake controlled a loose ball, dribbled around two defenders, and placed a short shot past Saradin for a 3-1 lead.
Gulf wasn't finished yet. D'Amico maneuvered into position for a shot that Seabreeze goalie Ken Bethea deflected high into the air.
When it landed, Afriat was there with a light touch into the nets to cut the deficit to 3-2.
With 7:30 remaining, Becker scored his second goal, in a one-on-one situation with Saradin. His rolling shot penetrated the goal and inflated the lead to 4-2. Blake scored less than four minutes later off an assist from Phillips.