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Class 4A, District 8:Because it had to forfeit 12 victories for unknowingly using an ineligible player, Steinbrenner's No. 6 seed was highly misleading.

Gaither's passion and prolific offense were not.

In an emotional, physical contest Thursday, the No. 2-seeded Cowboys (16-4-1) got two goals from senior forward Jonas Bukh in a 4-2 semifinal triumph on the Warriors' pitch. Gaither faces Freedom in Saturday's 7 p.m. title match.

"I thought our guys responded well to the emotional side of the game and kept their heads really well," Cowboys coach Eric Sims said "I don't think we played our best game, but we did enough to win and they're a good team. I'm very happy with the result."

Steinbrenner's goals came off penalty kicks. Gaither also got goals from Tarek Assaad and Jacob Snidle, who blistered a first-timer just inside the top of the box.

In the first semifinal, Freedom (11-5-1) got two goals and an assist from junior Jett Wright in a 4-0 triumph against short-handed Wiregrass Ranch. The Patriots are undefeated in six matches in 2012.

Seniors Larry Thorpe and Evan Kruk also tallied a goal and assist each for the Patriots, who seek their first district crown since 2009. The Bulls (15-7-3) were missing three injured starters and goalkeeper Logan Jones, competing in an Olympic Development Program camp.

Class 3A, District 9: At Leto, senior Angel Reyes-Salas' blast to the upper 90 with nine minutes remaining lifted the Falcons (9-2-3) to a 3-2 semifinal victory against Lennard in Class 3A, District 9.

The Falcons face top-seeded Jesuit, a 3-0 winner against King, in tonight's 7 o'clock title game. Leto also got goals from Alfredo Aparicio and Thomas Valencia, who scored during injury time in the first half to give the host a 2-1 lead.

Jesuit got goals from Brett Durrance, Joseph Metzger and Chris Conlon. Sophomore Lucas Schmeling got the shutout for the Tigers (16-3-1), who seek their seventh consecutive district crown tonight.

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Plant DB Stalls picks Kent State

Plant DB Keenan Stalls has committed to Kent State, Panthers coach Robert Weiner said.

Stalls recorded 66 total tackles, 20 passes defended, six interceptions, one caused fumble and one fumble recovery that came in Plant's come-from-behind 28-21 overtime win in the Class 8A region final against East Lake.

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Former Dragon Russell taking next step after Taft: Colgate

For former Jefferson RB Demetrius Russell, his football career is working out according to plan. When he enrolled last fall at the Taft School, a prep school in Connecticut, it was with the hopes of transferring to Colgate. That hope is now a reality, as Dragons coach Jeremy Earle said Thursday that Russell has committed to Colgate. While the 2010 Jefferson offense set state records for passing touchdowns (56) and passing yards (4,451), Russell, a two-year starter, still managed to carry the ball 151 times for 1,218 yards and 15 touchdowns as the Dragons went 15-0 to claim the Class 3A state championship. Russell's team at Taft this fall went 8-0 to win the New England Class A Championship.

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Joey Knight can be reached at or (813) 226-3350. Laura Keeley can be reached at or (813) 226-3112.