Winning a state title is something only a handful of teams achieve each year. It requires talent, a total team and a few breaks along the way. Defending a state championship?
"Even harder," Countryside coach Dave Sica said.
So far, so good for the Cougars, who won the 6A state title last season and return eight starters from that club. Countryside, winner of its bracket in the 28th Puma Challenge in Sarasota on Nov. 25, is 12-0.
"The team set goals at the beginning of the season and one of those was to win every game," Sica said. "But (going undefeated) is not part of our discussion."
The Cougars might not talk about running the table but it is possible. Countryside is loaded with scoring options (Mike Favero, Kyle Kuhlman, Juan Rivas), talented midfielders (Chris Taylor, Josh Kent), and a sturdy defense (Eddie Lopez and goalkeeper Jeff Attinella).
However their considerable talent also has almost eliminated tight matches; the Cougars have yet to trail this season and seven of their wins have been decided by four or more goals.
"Hopefully we'll respond well when it does happen that we're behind," Sica said. "That's the benefit of an experienced team."
Favero, Kuhlman, Attinella and Lopez were integral parts of last season's championship team and they reached the state semifinals the year before.
INJURY UPDATE: First-team Times All-County midfielder Sebastian Thuriere of Seminole will not play tonight against PHU after aggravating a groin injury Tuesday against East Lake. Thuriere has been on crutches since, and coach Rick Masi said he is likely "out for a while."... Sica said forward Josh Martinez (knee) continues to make progress, but he doesn't expect him to play until districts begin. ... The Eagles have not set a timetable for the return of Eddie Zuniga (ankle) and George Yoho (back).
Contact Brandon Wright at email@example.com or 727-892-2216.
Super 7 statistics
E. Starikov PHU 17
G. Filipovski TS 15
T. Johnston LKW 13
G. McClimans CCH 13
L. Marraquin LAR 11
S. Mallue ST.P 10
K. Lucas KES 9
C. Taylor CSY 15
T. Pusch EL 10
L. Marraquin LAR 9
M. Christiansen EL 8
N. Saengphaxay ST.P 8
L. Curnutte PHU 7
M. Tobin PHU 7
J. Attinella CSY 8
T. Grzeskowski SEM 7
P. Xanthoudakis PHU 7
D. Wade LKW 4
A. Szarejko CCH 4
A. Martin CCC 4
M. Konyndyk KES 3
Coaches are reminded to send stats to firstname.lastname@example.org on Thursday by 4 p.m.
Player of the Week
F George Filipovski, Tarpon Springs: The forward accounted for all six of the Spongers' goals last week, scoring five in a 5-4 win against Dunedin and Tarpon Springs' lone goal in a 1-1 tie against Pinellas Park.
One to watch
PHU at Seminole, 8 tonight. Palm Harbor beat Seminole 2-1 on a goal in the 78th minute for PHU's first-ever PCAC title last season. PHU coach Mike Mannino said, "I'm sure (Seminole) hasn't forgotten what happened."