TAMPA — When Osceola looks back on what was undoubtedly a successful season, merely an inch or two might be what tells the story of its premature conclusion.
Trailing Jesuit by only a goal despite being badly outshot and overmatched throughout most of the first half in Wednesday's Class 3A region quarterfinal, the Warriors looked set to finally turn things in their favor.
As an Osceola free kick from the right side sailed toward the net in the 60th minute, the ball found a foot among a herd of blue jerseys in the box before being redirected and banging underneath the cross bar. Bouncing back onto the turf below, it just missed inching the line by for the would-be equalizer.
Stunned, some players folded their hands on their heads in disbelief. But on the other end, the host Tigers used it as fuel to nab three more tallies and advance in a 4-0 shutout.
"We knew they were dangerous on dead balls," Jesuit coach Eric Sims said. "The one in the second half, they probably should have scored on. We were comfortable in possession but we knew they were dangerous in balls in the box."
The Tigers (19-6-1) ramped up the pressure early, holding the ball on the attack while testing Osceola goalkeeper Tristen Waters from all angles.
At one point, a visibly-irked Warriors coach Al Sousa shouted, "If you want to walk, go play golf."
The Tigers broke through on their fourth shot as Zachary Board blasted one in just after the first water break.
From there, the onslaught continued and Osceola (11-5-1) eventually crumpled. Eight minutes after the Warriors' near-goal, Jesuit's Benny Ortiz redirected a skidding corner kick from Diego Yepez to push the advantage to two.
Royce Pope and Ortiz finished it soon after, providing the daggers within a minute of each other late before Jesuit emptied its bench.
"I think what we did in the last 20 minutes was some of the best that we've played in the last few weeks," Sims said. "If we can play like that, hopefully that gives us some momentum."