TAMPA — With a handful of players standing 6 feet 1 and taller, Jesuit owned a decided height advantage in its Class 3A, District 9 tournament final against Bradenton Southeast.
The Hurricanes, as it turned out, had no answers for the Tigers’ aerial prowess.
Jesuit scored three times — twice in the air and all three off dead-ball plays — in a convincing 3-0 victory that earned the Tigers their ninth straight district title.
“We preach tradition consistently,” Jesuit coach Eric Sims said. “The talk tonight was ‘Don’t be the first team this year at our school not to win a district title’ because all the other sports have won a title. It was important for us to keep that streak going as well.”
Jesuit (13-4-3) controlled the majority of the possession and kept the ball in Southeast’s end of the field throughout. In the 32nd minute, the Tigers’ relentless pressure was rewarded when Daryian Flores’ corner kick was sent high into the middle of the box, and 6-foot-3 defender Michael Conlon easily skied above the fray to head it past Hurricanes goalie Parth Patel (one save).
“Usually I go front post to the near post, but me and Kevin (Carvalho), my other center back, switched it up,” Conlon said. “They got confused, and I just got up and hit it. I was free on that one.”
Less than two minutes later, Jesuit took a two-goal lead. Jacob Vila headed a ball toward goal off a 25-yard free kick that was saved off the line by a Hurricanes defender, but Flores alertly slotted the rebound into the open goal.
“That’s what we strive for, dead balls,” Conlon said. “It’s our best type of attacking.”
After halftime, Jesuit continued to exert its will on Southeast (11-8-2), and the Tigers secured the district championship in the 66th minute, a long throw in from Flores deep in Hurricanes territory was headed past Patel by Connar Lufkin.
“Capitalizing on set pieces is definitely a focus for us,” Sims said.
Underscoring Jesuit’s dominance, the Tigers had one goal in each half disallowed for offside and limited Southeast to one shot on goal for the match.