TARPON SPRINGS — It took Tarpon Springs a while to buy into new coach Kevin Sugar’s system. Almost too long.
A sub-.500 regular season turned into the Spongers’ first district title in 17 years. And after hobbling through the opening 20 minutes Thursday against Bradenton Southeast, Tarpon Springs turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 victory in a Class 3A region quarterfinal.
Now at 6-9-2, the Spongers move on.
“We didn’t have our heads on straight at the start of the game,” Tarpon’s Diogo Rodrigues said. “We had to raise up our energy, play with heart.”
To a man, the elevated effort was all Tarpon needed. Rodrigues sent eight shots at Southeast (11-9-2), and the pressure was contagious.
Sophomore T.J. Korfias negotiated his way into taking and converting a tying direct kick from 10 yards with 18:30 left.
“I felt it,” Korfias said. “I knew I could score on it, and the guys backed me up.”
Then Kosta Pseftelis rose up.
After a potential tying goal late in the first half was nullified due to a foul, the senior didn’t let his second chance go to waste. A corner kick skittered off a teammate to Pseftelis dead-center from 20 yards, and he one-timed it past the left post with 13 minutes left for the winner.
“I had a bunch of goals taken back,” Pseftelis said. “And I had to smack it home.”
Peter Kouskoutis’ first-half goal slowed Southeast’s momentum. Then sophomore Ali Tajik converted a cross-net corner kick from Rodrigues to continue Tarpon’s comeback.
“We tried to bring in the style of play we had when we played here: fast, aggressive, with passion and, most of all, pride,” said Sugar, who helped Tarpon win a district title in 1991. “The kids started to buy into the system halfway through the season, and everything changed in the districts.”
Jesuit 8, Dunedin 0: The host Tigers Jesuit scored 20 seconds into the first half and 20 seconds into the second half. “We started really fast and came out ready to go,” Tigers coach Eric Sims said.
Junior Daryian Flores finished with a hat trick for Jesuit (14-4-3). Jacob Vila, Jacob Starnes, Stephen Huetz, Peter Johnson and James Serrano also scored for the Tigers, who earned their fifth playoff win over the past three seasons.
Berkeley Prep 4, Lake Placid 1: Liam Ryan volleyed in a loose ball off of a corner kick in the game’s first minute to help Berkeley Prep grind to a 4-1 home win over Lake Placid.
“I thought that first goal gave us that little lift,” Bucs coach Tim Cooper said.
Berkeley (8-10-5) added a header by Stanford volleyball signee Kyle Dagostino and a goal each by Quinton Kauchick and Andrew Kenny to earn their 18th playoff victory under Cooper.
Clearwater Central Catholic 2, Mulberry 1 PK: The visiting Marauders gave up the tying goal with 15 minutes left but prevailed 4-1 in penalty kicks.
The game was scoreless at halftime, but the Marauders went ahead when Kevin Harris scored with 21 minutes remaining on an assist from Spencer Courville Taylor.In penalty kicks, Harris, Matt Dunn, Will Moorhead and Alex Thompson scored while goalkeeper Dominic Grchan came up with two saves.