TAMPA — Two of the best boys soccer teams in the country — Steinbrenner and Jesuit — squared off in a much anticipated clash Thursday afternoon at the annual Tampa Bay Invitational.
The giants didn't disappoint, fighting it out on a pristine field in the corner of Ed Radice Park.
There was plenty of pin-point passing, rifled shots and intense emotions (see two yellow cards).
In the end, after 80 hard-fought minutes, it was Jesuit, ranked No. 40 nationally by MaxPreps, that came away with a 2-1 victory over the Warriors, ranked No. 33 in the nation.
"We know that any time you play Steinbrenner you're going to get a tough battle because that's just the way they play," Jesuit coach Eric Sims said. "We looked forward to playing them."
Steinbrenner (9-1-1) actually scored first in the 50th minute when junior Arman Alideai zipped in a penalty kick after Jesuit was called for a foul inside the box.
But Jesuit (8-1) didn't blink, sticking to its game plan, keeping its shape and converting a nice strike in the 63rd minute when Trevor Stanley sent a sharp pass to Lucas Gobea, who sprinted free and suddenly found himself one-on-one with the Steinbrenner keeper.
From there, Gobea, ranked by several recruiting services as one of the country's top players, ripped a 25-foot shot into the net's right side.
Then with five minutes left in the game the Tigers struck again, this time after the ball bounced around like a pinball before Gobea found the ball at his feet, which he used to chip in his second goal.
"This was intense," Gobea said. "I know almost all the players on Steinbrenner's team so we have a pretty intense rivalry. It was a great test."
Seminole remains unbeaten
Seminole was hoping for some tough tests this week at the Tampa Bay Invitational.
So far so good.
On Thursday, the Warhawks were taken to the limit before defeating Bloomingdale 1-0, scoring in the 30th when freshman Victor Badillo broke free and sent a clean shot into the back of the net.
From there, as it was for much of the night, the play was competitive with the Warhawks (7-0-2, ranked No. 34 in the country) consistently making big plays when they needed to.
"We showed great effort," Warhawks coach Rick Masi said. "Any time we made a mistake we quickly made up for it."
Masi was particularly pleased with how his team defended the Bulls' Jacob McDonald, who came into the game with 17 goals through 11 games.
Seminole used four defenders — Coby Suski, Joey Reichert, Kobe Hepburn and Gavin Barrett — to follow McDonald's every move.
"All of them did a great job and it showed a lot of versatility," Masi said. "We've had some injuries this year but we've found ways to get it done."
Bloomingdale (9-3) kept the fight up throughout the night, but Seminole also kept up its intensity, particularly around its own goal.