Gulf has enough Marics
By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
NEW PORT RICHEY -- The county's leading scorer is gone, and yet Gulf looks capable of scoring even more goals this season.
The math is hard to imagine, but two Maric brothers might be better than three. Despite the graduation of Alex, who scored 44 goals last season, the Buccaneers bring back sophomore twins Bosho and Novica Maric, who have combined for 11 goals and 10 assists in Gulf's first four wins.
Physically, Bosho and Novica (no-WITZ-ah) follow their brother's lead: It's okay to weigh 125 pounds if you're fast enough to dribble circles around bigger defenders.
"The whole summer, we played together, preparing for this season," said senior Drew Roberts, who scored 18 goals last season and has started at center midfield, wreaking havoc with the twins in leading the Bucs to 23 goals in those four wins.
Roberts has three goals and four assists already, but it could be another month before the Bucs get their biggest offensive weapon. Richard Jata, who had 15 goals for River Ridge last season, was ruled ineligible and had his initial appeal denied by the Florida High School Activities Association on Thursday.
Jata transferred from River Ridge to Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton in the spring, then moved back to New Port Richey and enrolled at Gulf three weeks before practice began. He did not play soccer at Bollettieri, but his eligibility is under scrutiny because his initial residence this school year was at the academy. His next appeal will be heard Jan. 10.
With or without Jata, Gulf has already gotten a major boost from three other River Ridge players who transferred rather than play for their third coach in four years. Sweeper Devon Hill, midfielder Jarred Bagwell and stopper Tim Baker are starting for the Bucs, and Bagwell is tied for the team lead with seven assists.
Coach Sam Koleduk hopes those three can help shore up his defense along with returning keeper Brandon King, though he was disappointed to see nine goals given up in the first five games.
"That's not too good, and it's a lot of stupid goals. Teams haven't been earning their goals against us," he said.
Despite all the scoring back and all the defense imported in, the Buccaneers still find the same obstacle between them and conference or district titles: Land O'Lakes. The Gators gave Gulf three of its eight losses last year and edged the Bucs by a single point for the Sunshine Athletic Conference crown.
"I think some teams just have a mental edge on others," Hudson coach Ron Ladimir said. "It's like a mystique. I always do well against Land O'Lakes, but Gulf hasn't been able to get past them."
Hudson's 3-1 win against Land O'Lakes makes the Cobras definite challengers in the conference and district playoff picture. The Cobras, Bucs and Gators will battle it out for two playoff spots in a tough Class 2A, District 8 tournament at Hudson.
The Gators and Bucs met Wednesday with Land O'Lakes taking a 2-0 victory on its home field, a game the Gators dominated according to Roberts. Land O'Lakes senior Trae Martin, who scored the winning goal, said he likes the rivalry that's emerged between the two teams.
"They talk a lot of trash in the papers," Martin said. "Last year especially, going into districts, it's, 'We're out to get Land O'Lakes,' and, "Oh, we've got them. They can't handle us.' That fires me up.
"We have a good rivalry, but talk afterward, not before."
The high-scoring offense isn't the only thing back from last year's Gulf team. Ask when the rematch with the Gators is and Roberts and the Maric twins reply, "January 8," in a unison they hope to achieve on the field. They won't get Jata until at least two days after that match, but could have him for a third showdown in the district tournament.
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