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A heads-up play can sometimes be a pain

When Nature Coast senior Garrett Karp uses his head, it hurts. That's because Karp has 10 staples in the left side of his head after getting cleated in the season opener.

It's probably hard to tell because the forward has so much hair, but they're there, and Karp gets a not-so-subtle reminder every time he heads a ball. Still, the pain hasn't deterred the team's leading scorer from recording two of his four goals off headers.

Nature Coast coach Tom Brown said he joked with Karp that the staples are a magnet for the ball.

"It seems like every time he takes a header, it's off the staples," Brown said. "He remembers after the fact, but when he's playing, he's such a competitor that he doesn't care about it."

Karp split his head open during Nature Coast's first game of the season, a 6-1 loss to Pasco. Brown said Karp was going to make a play on the ball when he was undercut by a defender in the opponent's box. The goalkeeper came out with his cleats up to make the save, and cleated Karp.

THE HONEYMOON IS OVER: Where do people in Florida vacation? Cancun, apparently.

Springstead coach Polo Furlong was out of town this week honeymooning with his wife, Vinlley, in the Mexican tourist destination. But he's back now and anxious to see how severe a sprained ankle star Angela Passafaro suffered in a win over Nature Coast last Tuesday. Furlong, whose Eagles (7-1-1) played Gulf on Tuesday night in a pivotal district game, said he wouldn't take any chances with the county's leading scorer (12 goals, six assists).

"If she's a little hurt, I'm not going to play her," he said.

It might not be a bad thing for the Eagles to learn how to cope without their star. Furlong says he has a talented group of freshmen that includes Sara Andrews, who is tied for the team lead with six assists.

Against Nature Coast, Passafaro went down when the Eagles were locked in a scoreless tie. Nevertheless, they scored two goals in the second half to win 2-0.

TURKEY WITH A SIDE OF SOCCER: The pessimist would start by saying the Central boys lost two of their three games in a Thanksgiving tournament in Clearwater. And he would add that the Bears were outscored 10-3 in those two games.

But we're not pessimists, and neither is Central coach Hank Deslaurier.

Though the Bears were severely overmatched in a 7-1 loss to state title contender Palm Harbor University, they were also without their leading scorer, Joel Beiswenger, who sprained an ankle in a win over St. Petersburg earlier in the day. And they lost 3-2 to Arnold on a late goal.

"Against Palm Harbor, Joel was hurt and we were only down 1-0 at halftime," Deslaurier said. "At that point, we had played 20 minutes of the first half with our second-stringers. Still, we were only down 1-0. We went back to the first string, who were exhausted, then went back to second string."

Central plays Springstead Monday, but Deslaurier said the team is putting more emphasis on district games than county games.

Said the coach: "We want to win the district."

GOAL! ... WHEW: In its first six games, the Hernando girls fired three shots on goal. In that same time, the opposition tallied 32 goals.

Not good times for Hernando.

But coach John Bifulco, a stickler for possession-oriented soccer, stood by his philosophy with his young team. Build the attack up one side of the field, then look to cross, he reminded them. Above all else, pass with a purpose.

Something worked. Less than two minutes into Hernando's seventh game of the season, freshman striker Brittany Parker took the ball down the right flank and glanced up. When she did, she saw teammate Ashley Germain wide open on the other side of the field. Just as Bifulco had predicted. So Parker crossed the ball and Germain, at the wide post, tapped it in.

Goal.

Six more followed and Hernando shook off its scoreless slump to defeat South Sumter 7-1. Hernando scored on seven of its 14 shots on goal. Maybe more importantly, the team gained confidence because the players saw Bifulco's approach work.

It's still a style that requires patience because one poor pass can unravel the entire approach. All it takes is for a defender to interfere and boot the ball in the opposite direction. But Bifulco won't let his players settle for playing kickball. He'll holler for a substitute before that happens. He did it several times against South Sumter.

"They know," Bifulco said. "I don't even have to yell the name. ... I take them out. I sit them down, and I explain to them and watch the match with them."

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