Two of the county's best teams clashed Wednesday at Gator Stadium, but the game will not go down as one of the season's best.
Gulf (10-3-1) and Land O'Lakes (8-1-1) opted not to compete in tournaments over the winter break and it showed. The contest was marred by fluke goals and errant passing, but Land O'Lakes got the breaks _ and bounces _ when they counted for a 5-0 win.
And the Gators were good when they had to be.
Land O'Lakes goalkeeper Kyle Boerner made two saves on Novica Maric breakaways within the first six minutes. Maric scored a county-leading 53 goals last season and has 15 this season. That number might have increased to 17 if not for Boerner.
"It's a different game (had either or both of Maric's shots gone in)," Land O'Lakes coach Mark Pearson said. "Now you're coming out of a hole, but that's why Kyle Boerner is Kyle Boerner. He made the saves when we needed it."
Land O'Lakes took a 3-0 halftime lead, with Gulf defender John Marquis outmaneuvered on the first two scores. In the 15th minute, Marquis slipped on the right side of the penalty box and Josh Chan got to the loose ball, kicking it into the left corner.
About 10 minutes later, Louis Falcon dribbled the ball down the left sideline and was forced into the far left corner before crossing it toward the Gulf net. Bucs keeper James Rogers called for the ball, which deflected off Marquis' hip into the open net.
Ryan Martin added a goal before the break, lofting a 35-yard shot over Rogers' fingertips.
"It's hard to even yell at them really," Gulf coach Sam Koleduk said. "Those fluke goals, they devastate you."
Added Pearson: "Soccer's like that. It's making the most of your opportunities."
With Sean Bokee and T.R. Finney bottling up the Maric brothers, including Bosho, Gulf (10-3-1) struggled offensively. Novica's frustration showed when he was issued a yellow card after colliding with Land O'Lakes' Julian Velez-Rojas.
"My entire defense, individually and as a team, played well tonight," Pearson said. "That's what we worked on for two days."
Land O'Lakes increased its lead to 4-0 midway through the second half when Matt Goolsby split two defenders and chipped a shot over Rogers as he was pulled down at the top of the box.
Michael Weaver closed out scoring by blasting in a rebound off of Martin's penalty kick that banked off the crossbar.