Clearwater hoped to be competitive in last week's Puma Invitational, an elite tournament with 32 of the best teams in Florida and around the country. The Tornadoes were much more than that.
Clearwater advanced to the semifinals before losing 5-0 to national No. 1 Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Calif., in the Premier bracket. The Tornadoes went on to win the third-place game 2-1 over Ironwood (Ariz.).
Clearwater (11-3-1) went 3-1 in the tournament. It beat Zephyrhills 4-1 and Houston Strake Jesuit 2-1.
Clearwater Central Catholic was the only other county team in the tournament. It reached the consolation third-place game in the Elite division before losing 2-0 to Brandon.
"It was a very good tournament for us," Clearwater coach Bruce Toscani said. "We beat the teams we were supposed to beat, and we played well in all the games. I think just getting the experience of playing games against some good competition will only help us down the road."
Toscani was especially impressed with his defenders. Travis Gero was moved to defender prior to the tournament and played well. Tom Gluski and John Schultz also were solid.
Buster Wiand, Steve Goodrow, Ian Cruea and Mike Martino played well up front.
Clearwater is sitting on top of Class 3A, District 11. It has only one game next week, but it should be highly competitive as it plays Pinellas Park, which is second in the district.
FALCONS WIN ONE: Dunedin was the only area school to stay active after Christmas. It played in the Rams Holiday Classic at Ridgewood. It opened with a 10-1 loss to Ridgewood then defeated Wesley Chapel 4-2 and lost 4-0 to Gulf in the round robin tournament.
NATIONAL PROPS: Six schools in the Fox Sports national poll are from Florida, and three are in Tampa. Gaither, winner of the Puma, is 13-1 and ranked third. Jesuit (14-2), which lost to Gaither in the Puma final, is ranked fifth. Bloomingdale (9-2) is ranked 17th. _ RODNEY PAGE