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A challenge to boys in soccer

Well, here we are, on the eve of the Class 2A, District 5 boys soccer semifinals with what seems an inevitable rematch between Crystal River and Citrus in Friday's final.

Seems like as good a time as any to make an impassioned plea to the boys at both schools. Better yet, forget the plea. I'm here to issue this stern challenge to the Pirates and Hurricanes:

Don't let it happen again.

For those scratching their heads right now, here's a bit of a refresher. On Dec. 8, Citrus and Crystal River squared off in their final game of the regular season, a game the Pirates eventually won 2-0.

Unfortunately, the score was the last thing on anybody's mind following the game, which was plagued with fouls and rough play throughout and ended on the most unpositive of notes.

The brawl that ensued at the 66-minute mark (14 minutes to play) involved a number of players, required two administrators and two school resource officers to break up, and resulted in two-game suspensions for three players.

It was ugly. It was unpleasant. It would be great if it were never repeated.

However, one wonders whether any lessons were learned from the incident, which should have embarrassed all involved. So, rather than appeal to the boys' morality, I will appeal to their sense of competition.

And, with that, I issue this challenge:

I dare each and every player for the Hurricanes and Pirates to complete 80 minutes against their chief rivals without a single card. That means no jawing, no shoving, no retaliation and no cheap shots. Just clean, well-played soccer.

Can they do it? Is it even realistic to make such a request of 14- to 18-year-olds? In both cases, the answer is yes. I know enough about the players on both teams to know that this is not only possible, but that the teams will benefit from it in the long run.

So, guys, the ball is in your court. The challenge has been issued.

Can you meet it?

We'll just have to see, won't we?

NICE SHOWING: Lost amid the heavyweight battle between Lecanto and Hudson at Saturday's Citrus Invitational wrestling tournament was a very nice showing by Crystal River, which solidified its position as one of the area's up-and-coming teams with a fourth-place finish.

The Pirates placed three wrestlers in the finals (A.J. Davis at 127 pounds, Brian McErlain at 132 and Chauncey Minor at 189) and claimed one individual championship with McErlain's pin of Lecanto's Jonathan Bilby (4:45). In addition, the Pirates were the leaders in Pool 2 (Crystal River, Citrus, Jacksonville Neese and Gainesville) after the first three rounds of action.

"We came in this with the goal of wanting to win our pool and getting some guys in the finals," Crystal River coach Bill Tovine said. "And that's exactly what we did. For a freshman- and sophomore-dominated team, that's real good."

NEVER ENOUGH: It seems that Citrus cross country superstar Cory Presnick is never totally satisfied. After completing an undefeated season, capturing the Class 2A state championship and earning a scholarship to the University of Florida, Presnick's competitive desires still burn strongly, as evidenced by his performance in Saturday's Flatlander's Challenge in Brooksville.

Presnick was the top high school finisher, running the 10-kilometer race in a time of 33:40, good for fourth place overall.

Something tells me this is a name we should all get used to hearing (if we haven't already) in the future.