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Panthers break it open late to advance in 2A-5 tourney

Though Lecanto was clearly the dominant team in its first-round battle with Lake Weir in the Class 2A, District 5 boys soccer tournament, it took a little more than 67 minutes for that dominance to show itself in the form of goals.

Leading 1-0 at the half and controlling the flow of play at midfield, the Panthers exploded for two goals in the final 12 minutes for a 3-0 win that advances them into Wednesday's 8 p.m. semifinal against top-seeded Crystal River.

"I challenged them to come out and play as hard as they could," Panthers coach Bruce Sheffield said. "We had a lot of opportunities, but we missed on some easy chances."

Lake Weir, which managed just six shots on Lecanto keeper Nick Rowthorn _ only four of which forced the sophomore to make saves _ would have a hard time arguing Sheffield's point. Lecanto controlled play from start to finish and battered Hurricanes keeper Darin Belair with 27 shots.

Greg Schell scored the opening goal in the 32nd minute off assists from Doug Ponticos and Jacob Robinson, whose through ball to Ponticos set up the scoring chance. Ponticos took the pass and sprinted unchecked into the Lake Weir penalty box and sent a shot attempt low and wide of the goal. Luckily for the Panthers (7-10-2), Schell was marking the post and tapped the ball home for an easy score.

Ryan Simon made it 2-0 in the 67th minute with an unassisted goal, and Ryan Bishara completed the scoring just more than a minute later, taking a short corner kick at the far corner of the penalty area and blasting it past Belair for a 3-0 margin.

In the second game, third-seeded Leesburg defeated sixth-seeded North Marion 7-0. The Yellow Jackets will face Citrus at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the first semifinal.

2A-6: Bulldogs, Bears win

HUDSON _ Cold rain turned the field at Hudson into icy mush, but not before Zephyrhills and Central did the same to their opponents in the quarterfinals.

The Bulldogs defeated Hernando 3-1 to move into Wednesday's semifinals against No. 2 seed Springstead, and the Bears held off a late Pasco rally for a 5-3 win and will meet No. 1 seed Hudson.

Neither team that won Monday has defeated the teams they will meet Wednesday, but both coaches suggested their teams are ready to turn the tide, provided they play better.

"We still need to finish our chances better than we did tonight," Zephyrhills coach Phil Castro said.

The Bulldogs (10-14-1) got goals from Billy Piper, Justin Griffin (on a header off Kyle Briscoe's corner kick) and John Briscoe, his goal coming in the 76th minute with the Bulldogs nursing a 2-1 lead to finish off the Leopards, who finished 4-12-1.

On the other hand, Central (5-11-1) made sure it had a lead that did not need nursing. Effectively using a counter attack against Pasco's pressing frontline, the Bears were able to get a few breakaway opportunities as they outsped the Pirates. Brett Lorenzeti scored the first goal when he stepped in and stole a pass, beating two defenders after a 40-yard sprint, and Dave Bernard made it 2-0 at halftime with another.

Bernard's second goal made it 5-0 and buried Pasco. But the Pirates (5-17-1) rallied.

After missing at least a half-dozen solid chances throughout the game, Pasco finally started putting them away in the final six minutes, scoring three goals and having a fourth waved off with 45 seconds left due to offsides.

"Too little too late," coach Keith Sumner said. "We woke up about 15-20 minutes into the second half. I had all my seniors on the field, and they gave it all they had. We just couldn't put the ball in the net (earlier) when we had our chances."

_ JOHN C. COTEY

3A-10: Bucs, Rams go on

LAND O'LAKES _ Both Pasco County teams _ Ridgewood and Gulf _ advanced in the Class 3A, District 10 tournament after opening-round wins over their Pinellas County counterparts Monday night at Gator Stadium.

Ridgewood got goals from Adam Kell and Jason Meyers in the first five minutes in a lopsided 5-2 win over East Lake (6-10-2).

Freshman Jose Amazco, who netted 21 goals for the Rams' junior varsity squad before being called up for the tournament, and Sean Adair helped stake Ridgewood to a 4-1 halftime lead.

"That was our game plan," Ridgewood coach Ed McComiskey said of the Rams' quick start. "We wanted to get it over with. We knew we could beat these guys."

The Rams (12-7-1), who won both regular-season games against the Eagles, take on Land O'Lakes at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Gulf (11-11-2) took a 2-0 lead against Palm Harbor University but did not have it as easy as Ridgewood. The Buccaneers got first-half goals from Jeremy Villard and Alex Maric in a 3-2 win.

Steve Starkey received a red card in the 16th minute, forcing Gulf to play the remainder of the game shorthanded.

PHU (10-6-4) scored a minute before intermission and in the waning seconds to make it close, but Josh Andrews netted the game-winner in the 72nd minute.

"Sometimes when you play with 10 (players), you kind of get more excited," Gulf assistant Sam Koleduk said. "They were pressuring us, and I think (Andrews' goal) put them on the back burner."

Gulf plays River Ridge at 6 p.m. Wednesday. _ STEVE LEE

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