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Scoring flurry puts PHU in final

5A

Max Venker teed the ball up at the penalty spot in the 25th minute and eyed Fort Myers keeper Griffin Pharr. Nursing a 1-0 lead, Venker's penalty kick surely would give the Hurricanes a more comfortable two-goal margin. But the 'Canes' sure-footed senior booted the ball right at Pharr, who barely had to move to make the save.

"I want that one back bad," Venker said. "I can't miss those."

Ishmail Kamara and Eugene Starikov made sure it didn't matter.

The PHU strikers scored four goals in an 11-minute stretch during the second half to soundly defeat Fort Myers 5-0 at Lockhart Stadium. The Hurricanes face Auburndale, the defending 5A champion, in the title match tonight at 7.

"We were excited to play on a big pitch and we're a team that passes it around well," Venker said. "We knew we would tire them out."

Kamara's two strikes came during an explosive three-minute span and blew open the game. Kamara, who came off the bench midway through the first half, provided just the offensive spark PHU (25-4) needed.

"With my speed I'm able to change the game," Kamara said. "Our other forwards (start) and tire the defenders out and then I use my speed to get by them."

Robbie DeMar (two assists) ran under a long ball from Venker down the right flank. DeMar then hit a perfect cross on a dead sprint to Kamara in the 66th minute. Kamara then extended the lead and effectively put the game out of reach when he cleaned up a Starikov rebound shortly thereafter.

Starikov, who was having a quiet night up to that point, then punished the Green Wave (22-5-2) by doing what he does best - scoring. Kamara sent a pinpoint cross to an unmarked Starikov in the 72nd minute for the strike before blasting his 42nd goal of the season off the right post five minutes later.

"I was hoping (Venker's) PK wouldn't haunt us because you see that so many times," coach Mike Mannino said. "But when we got up 2-0, I knew we weren't giving up that lead."

Scoring outbursts aside, PHU's defense was stout. Mannino praised the efforts of sophomore Jamison Sweat, who was making his first start of the season for injured left back David Cole. Sweeper Nate Wysk also played a key role, knocking away a shot following a cornerkick that appeared to be headed for goal when PHU was up just 1-0.

"I always get the back post and try to help (goalkeeper) Brent (Hileman) out and it paid off there," Wysk said. "Now (today) we have the big game. It'll be the biggest game of my career."

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