Here they were, the under-12 Whitecaps matched against their Hudson rivals, the Crackers, in a semifinal match of the Sunshine Cup. The Crackers went 2-1-1 in head-to-head meetings during the regular season, so here was a chance for the Whitecaps to even the score.
But the Crackers were not about to roll over and cruised to a 5-0 win Saturday at Arthur Engle Field. Tyler Panesan had a hat trick for the Crackers, who also got single tallies from John Ingles and Megan Klecha.
"This is our rival the whole year," said Whitecaps coach Mitch Lang, who singled out the solid play of defenders Shane Simpson, Brendan Toomey and Jerry Thompson.
Crackers coach Ted Panesan lauded the play of one of his own defenders, sweeper Mike Pollock, who he said "is the quickest guy I've got. That's what we call him, Mr. Quick."
The Crackers advanced to Sunday's U-12 final, where they lost 2-1 to the West Pasco Mustangs. Donald Truckenbrod had the Crackers' lone goal in that contest.
Host Hudson sent one other team to the finals, the Gators, who lost 2-1 to the Central Pasco Pythons in the U-8 title match. Troy Cornwell, who scored every goal in an earlier-round 5-2 win over East Citrus, had the only goal for the Gators against the Pythons.
Central Pasco went on to capture the overall championship in the C-6 District series that included 93 recreational teams from 10 soccer organizations in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties. Central Pasco's U-8 Panthers and U-12 Diamonds claimed titles in the girls division while the Pythons took the U-8 crown for the third straight year. The Land O'Lakes-based league also had two runners-up in the girls division, the U-8 Cobras and the U-10 Wild Girls.
"We're competitive when we play each other, but when we go on to play these other leagues we're a close-knit group," said Central Pasco president Tim Hayes.
L.J. Steiner, who has been the tournament director for all eight Sunshine Cups, said the field has exceeded 90 teams for the past two years. Last spring, a tournament-record 96 teams entered the post-season tourney.
"All in all, it went very smooth," Steiner said of the two-weekend event, which took place March 8-9 and 15-16. "We ran pretty much on schedule.
"The two best times," she added, "are when the ball is kicked off at 8 o'clock in the morning on the first day and when the last trophy is handed out after the last game."
Besides Steiner, the other tournament volunteers were: Ray Wells, Tony Miele, Diane Castro, Kenny Zarrillo, Gary Steiner, Jim Daley and Marty Dudek.
Results of the championship games are as follows: U-8 girls _ Central Pasco Panthers 6, Central Pasco Cobras 2; U-8 boys _ Central Pasco Pythons 2, Hudson Gators 1; U-10 girls _ West Pasco Storm 3, Central Pasco Wild Girls 0; U-10 boys _ First Hernando Ruckus 5, Zephyrhills Scorpions 4; U-12 girls _ Central Pasco Diamonds 3, West Citrus Tornadoes 2; U-12 boys _ West Pasco Mustangs 2, Hudson Crackers 1; U-14 girls _ Breakaway Soccer of Inverness 5, First Hernando Gators 1; U-14 boys _ First Hernando Steelers 5, East Citrus Cosmos 4.