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TAMPA -- In the three years Brandon has played in the Student Sports Invitational, the Eagles have always had to go through Clearwater Central Catholic. Brandon won the first matchup and the Marauders won the second. This time, it was anybody's game.
With the winner advancing to the Premier bracket championship game, Brandon beat CCC 4-3 at Berkeley Prep on Saturday, sending the Marauders to the fifth-place consolation final.
"It's a nice little rivalry developing," said CCC coach Jim Harte, who added that Brandon was the best team his Marauders have played this season.
The Eagles controlled much of the action in the first period and took a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute. But in the second half, the game became more balanced and the lead changed hands six times in 13 minutes.
"The first half was dead," Brandon coach Allen Ware said. "The second half, it stepped up a notch."
In the 51st minute, CCC tied the score 1-1 with a goal by Ted Anderson. One minute later, the Eagles reclaimed the lead on goal by David Zettel. The Marauders took less than a minute to respond with a goal by Paul Raven, who picked up Anderson's dribble after Anderson was tripped on a drive toward the goal.
Tied 3-3, Brandon took the lead for good in the 64th minute on another Zettel score. All of the Eagles' second-period goals came on shots from inside the penalty box, opportunities created by CCC's vulnerability on defense.
Both teams won their earlier games Saturday to earn the chance to reach the Premier championship game. The Marauders beat Lake Gibson 5-2 and Brandon bested Lincoln 4-3.
In other Premier pool play, Steven Whiteside scored two goals as Countryside beat Gaither 2-1. But the Cougars were eliminated in their second matchup of the day, 5-1, by Santa Margarita (Calif.), the second-ranked team in the country according to Studentsports.com. Paul Favero scored Countryside's goal.