ST. PETERSBURG — It was the sequence that defined the game, four minutes that saw a potential tie game turn into a 2-0 Shorecrest Prep victory and a third straight trip to the state final four.
Trailing early in the second half of Wednesday’s Class 2A region final, a talented Community School of Naples squad was owning possession time in the Chargers’ zone. In the 45th minute, Max Haas corralled a ricocheted corner kick about 5 yards outside of the penalty area, saw Shorecrest keeper Lucas Murphy pulled out of the net and lofted a nearly perfect shot that fell just under the crossbar.
But Murphy recovered, retreated, and just got his outstretched hands on the ball under the pipe, allowing defender Samuel Idinge to clear it away from the goal line.
“I knew the team was putting in the effort; I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do,” Murphy said of his biggest of three saves on the night. “I always stay alert.”
Four minutes later, just after CSN's Ethan Marks nudged a running 15-yard volley just wide of the right post, the Chargers jumped on their first opportunity on the half, albeit with a fortunate hop of the ball.
Max Consoni stole the ball at midfield but saw his pass to teammate Asher Rovin blocked by a Seahawk defender. The ball still got to Rovin's foot and the senior sent Consoni unmarked down the right side. Just outside of the penalty area, Consoni sent in a perfect hook shot that kissed off the inside of the left post and slid gently into the net.
“I got pretty lucky, I can't even lie,” Consoni said of his second goal of the night and 21st of the season. “I got a lucky deflection, and sometimes you've got to get a little bit of luck.”
But Consoni knew what that emotional marker meant.
“We were getting pressed, we were up 1-0 with a whole second half to go. Getting that second goal was huge because it stopped everything they had and ruined every single piece of hope that they had.”
“Obviously, (Murphy) made a big save. It’s a goal, right?” said Shorecrest coach Jason Montoya. “Then in transition, we caught them on our counter, something we talked about a lot in training (before the match), talked about the zones we thought we could capitalize on. I think that training worked to our benefit.”
Montoya’s savvy scouting also helped the Chargers (16-3-2) get on the scoreboard first in the fifth minute.
“We knew their starting keeper (junior Panos Demaras) was prone to a lot of rebounds so we wanted to get everything on frame and follow the shots.”
Jon Shehu played a ball in from the right wing, Demaras stretched out and lost possession off of his fingertips and Consoni was there to pop the ball into the back of the cage.
“That's kind of what a striker is supposed to do, be in the right place at the right time,” Consoni said.
Until Shorecrest’s back-breaking goal, advantage had swung both ways as strong offensive opportunities from Rovin and Idinge were answered by quality chances for Haas and Jake Hanus for CSN (20-5-1), seemingly always set up by the hustling Jacon Tankersley.
But Shorecrest survived it all, especially a final 20 minutes playing down a man due to Jack Warburton's second yellow card.
Going into a defensive shell, the Chargers' back line of junior Max Tomey, Idinge, Dayyan Lee and freshman Jeremy Barton didn't even bend as the Seahawks could only send in three shots, none on frame.
“We cherish clean sheets. We do not like the ball hitting the back of our net,” Montoya plainly stated after Shorecrest's fifth straight playoff shutout. “But the way we communicated and defended then, it wasn't pretty, it wasn't technique, it wasn't this tactical brilliance, that was work rate and heart.
“What a heck of a team (CSN) is, what a great team. Congratulations to the boys.”
Next up for the Chargers is a home semifinal date Saturday against Doral Divine Savior Academy, a 2-1 victor over Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy.
State boys soccer semifinals
Games at 7 p.m. Saturday.
6A: No. 2 Mitchell at No. 1 Niceville
5A: No. 4 Jacksonville Stanton at No. 1 Jesuit
3A: No. 1 Jacksonville Bolles at No. 1 Tampa Catholic
2A: No. 5 Doral Divine Savior Academy at No. 1