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Land O'Lakes tops district foe

In a three-team district, there is not much difference between finishing second or third since both teams square off to play the top seed in the final.

Land O'Lakes clinched the second seed in Class 5A, District 5 with Friday's 2-1 win against River Ridge at Gator Stadium. That avenged a 1-0 loss to No. 3 River Ridge on Dec. 3.

"I think we outplayed them tonight just like the last time," Land O'Lakes coach Mark Pearson said.

"Two good teams. I think we're evenly matched," River Ridge coach Steve Doyle said.

Mitchell, which hosts the 5A-5 tourney beginning Feb. 2, is 1-0-3 in the district. The Gators are 1-1-2 and the Royal Knights 1-2-1.

Andrew Falcon's 35-yard kick, which bounced past River Ridge goalkeeper Shawn Grimes in the 57th minute, was the winner. Falcon's ninth goal came off a pass from Joey Ferraro.

Two minutes later, the Gators nearly doubled their lead, but Josh Chan's header sailed just over the crossbar.

Nelson Garcia gave Land O'Lakes (7-7-4 overall) a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute with his team-leading 18th goal. Garcia, a senior orally committed to Queens College, a Division II school in Charlotte, N.C., converted a cross from Falcon.

That gave Garcia, who had four goals in Wednesday's 8-0 win over Pasco, five in the past two games. He might have had another in the waning seconds, but his header off a pass from Joshua Nieves floated wide of the right post.

Midway through the first half, River Ridge (7-7-1) tied it at 1 on Matt Baker's penalty kick.

Play was chippy with numerous collisions throughout; the district rivals combined for 10 yellow cards and three ejections, including a red card issued to Land O'Lakes' A.J. Crotty in the 70th minute.

Receiving two yellows apiece, which led to their ejections, were River Ridge's Cameron Baker and Derek Firlik.

Both teams relied more on their benches than usual. Injuries left Land O'Lakes without seven starters and River Ridge without two.

"I was very happy," Pearson said. "We played with a lot of grit."

"We don't need to make excuses," Doyle said, "but when you go to the well and it's dry I'm talking about depth."