For Hillsborough County’s five remaining boys soccer teams, destiny operates on diesel fuel. The road to immortality will be traveled mostly by bus, through Pinellas and Polk counties, and across a sprawling stretch of State Road 70. In a quirky twist of bracketology, the entire quintet of teams will travel for Saturday’s second playoff round. For those curious about the length of the journey and potential roadblocks to be encountered, we’ve devised this region semifinal road map (don’t read while driving).
Plant (13-3-1) at East Lake (13-3-5)
Length of journey (round-trip): 47 miles
At stake: Winner faces Ocoee or Winter Garden West Orange in Tuesday’s Class 5A region final
Panthers’ hottest player: Unquestionably, it’s senior Luis Zapata, who notched his first career hat trick in Wednesday’s 4-0 region quarterfinal romp of St. Petersburg.
Scouting report: Bank on the Panthers marking Pennsylvania transplant Josh Page. In three postseason games, Page has scored winners in overtime (district semifinals), in the final 20 minutes (district final) and in the waning moments (region quarters).
Steinbrenner (16-2-3) at Eagle Lake Lake Region (14-3-3)
Length of journey (round-trip): 130 miles
At stake: Winner faces Daytona Beach Seabreeze or Deltona Pine Ridge in Tuesday’s Class 4A region final
Warriors’ hottest player: Senior captain Jason Collister (22 goals, seven assists) had a pair of goals in Steinbrenner’s 7-1 rout of Davenport Ridge in Wednesday’s region quarterfinal.
Scouting report: “Lake Region is a good team. Their goalie is solid, they have a very strong forward. They are good with the ball and have speed. It will be a tough game.” — Warriors coach Chad Ebright
Jesuit (21-3-4) at Palmetto (23-1-3)
Length of journey (round-trip): 88 miles
At stake: Winner faces Estero or Immokalee in Tuesday’s Class 3A region final
Tigers’ hottest player(s): In addition to his defense, which allowed one Osceola shot on goal in Wednesday’s region quarterfinal, Tigers coach Bob Bauman points to Peter Johnson. A junior, Johnson has three goals in his past three contests, including two winners.
Scouting report: This is a fledgling futbol rivalry, and probably the game of the night. Jesuit edged Palmetto in overtime in last year’s region semis, but lost to the Tigers by three goals in 2010. “Palmetto is a very good team, and has played a tough schedule — somewhat similar to ours,” Bauman said. “My biggest concern about Palmetto is their speed and size up front, and in the midfield.”
Berkeley Prep (14-10-2) at Arcadia DeSoto (13-3-4)
Length of journey (round-trip): 210 miles
At stake: Winner faces LaBelle or Fort Myers Bishop Verot in Tuesday’s Class 2A region final
Buccaneers’ hottest player: Junior Daniel Felman (21 goals, 14 assists) has scored goals in eight of Berkeley’s past 10 matches, but his surrounding cast is pretty prolific, too.
Scouting report: Buccaneers coach Tim Cooper has scrambled to extract any kind of data on the Bulldogs. As of Thursday afternoon, he was texting back and forth with St. Petersburg Catholic coach Will Summer, whose team fell to DeSoto, 2-0, in the region quarterfinals. Summer’s initial warning — DeSoto’s field is a mess.
Tampa Prep (19-1-2) at Bradenton St. Stephen’s (16-2-1)
Length of journey (round-trip): 97 miles
At stake: Winner faces Lakeland Christian or Windermere Prep in Tuesday’s Class A region final
Terrapins’ hottest player: A handful of veterans have shined recently (and all season, for that matter), but senior forward Shaddy Douidar has emerged as the catalyst.
Scouting report: St. Stephen’s has been eyeing this rematch for, oh, 365 days — give or take a day. The Falcons led the Terrapins 2-0 in last season’s region semifinal before falling 3-2 on penalty kicks. “They’ve got a lot of talent and they move the ball well,” Terps coach Doug Smith said.