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  1. Sports
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Tampa Catholic scores two minutes in and never looks back

The Crusaders, who shut out Windemere Prep in the region final, have two more shots at an elusive state soccer title.
Tampa Catholic celebrates after Esteban Vargas, third from left, scores the second goal during a 3-0 victory over Windemere Prep in a Class 3A region final Wednesday. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

TAMPA — Tampa Catholic’s boys soccer team is fast and plays fast, sprinting past opponents and passing with exceptional speed. Few teams have been able to keep up.

On Wednesday night in a Class 3A region final, visiting Windemere Prep got caught in the Crusaders’ buzz saw. The result wasn’t pretty for the visitors.

Tampa Catholic — 22-1-2, ranked No. 6 overall in the state, No. 11 in the country, and No. 2 in Class 3A by MaxPreps — dominated from start to finish, scoring in the second, 38th and 64th minutes, ultimately running away with a 3-0 victory.

A victory that sets up a state semifinal Saturday at 7 p.m. against visiting Jacksonville Bolles, the No. 5 team in Class 3A — perhaps another step in the Crusaders’ quest to pull off what they have never been able to do before: win a state title.

“One step at a time,” said coach Kevin McCarron, who graduated from Tampa Catholic in 1978 and has coached the Crusaders the past 14 years. “This might be the most talented team we’ve ever had, but we still have to stay focused on the next game. We cannot get ahead of ourselves.”

Tampa Catholic appeared to keep things in perspective against Windemere Prep (17-2, No. 11 in Class 3A). The Crusaders set the tone in the game’s second minute when senior Mason Greif rifled in a shot from 15 yards.

Tampa Catholic continued dominating play with persistent pressure on the Windemere goal before junior Esteban Vargas broke down the middle and fired in the second goal.

In the 64th minute, Tampa Catholic sealed the deal when senior Tony Watson threw a ball in front of Windemere’s goal, where freshman Dylan Dana headed it into the back of the net. The Crusaders have not given up a goal since the district semifinals.

“Before the regional playoffs I told our team that the only regional team that can beat us is us,” McCarron said. “In other words, if we we play our game, and keep up the intensity, we should win.”

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

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