The senior sweeper for Seminole had been a force in the back for the Warhawks before he went out in December with a partial tear of his ACL. Slowly working back into the groove of things, coach Rick Masi started him at right midfielder in Thursday's 5A-3 region quarterfinal game against Clearwater.
Stanton scored twice in the first half to lead the Warhawks to a 3-0 win over the Tornadoes. Seminole (21-5-4) advanced to the region semifinals and will host Bradenton Manatee on Tuesday.
The game started with a dense haze over the field which made finding the flag during the national anthem a strain. The fog never lifted, but the boys played on unaffected, even when soaring goal kicks disappeared for a few seconds.
Clearwater came out strong early, pressing Seminole's defense, but once the Warhawks got possession on offense, they threatened in the box, seemingly one touch away from a shot.
In the 14th minute Stanton bumped the ball with his chest to score off a corner kick from Richard Legg. Less than two minutes later, Stanton sent a cross that cut sharp, just by the near post, past Clearwater goalkeeper Ryan Gregg.
"I'm just happy I could help my team," said Stanton, who shed his massive knee brace for the first time since the injury.
The Warhawks led 2-0 at halftime and didn't waste much time to extend their lead in the second half. Kyle Urquhart scored from a free kick from Legg to help Seminole pull away from Clearwater. The Warhawks had several looks on goal, but couldn't finish them. A lot of it had to do with Clearwater's goalie, Gregg, whose timely saves kept the score reasonable.
Clearwater had chances, but Seminole goalie Matt Celmer smartly defended the box.
Gregg is the only starting senior on a team that exceeded his expectations, finishing as district runnerup at 10-4-2.
"We gave it all we could and we came up short," Gregg said.
Hurricanes hold off Green Devils 1-0
PALM HARBOR - St. Petersburg lost to Palm Harbor U. 1-0 in what its coach, Dave Williams, said was the best game of the season.
"You walk away from this game, and you just don't want to have any regrets," Williams said.
PHU hosts Cape Coral Mariner, a 2-1 winner over Venice, on Tuesday in the region semifinals.
St. Petersburg (12-6-4) sent balls across the Hurricanes box all night. The Green Devils had 19 shots, but just two were on goal against Brent Hileman.
Coach Juan Pablo Pinzon has talked about the Hurricanes' ability to finish and said it needs improvement. PHU (17-4-3) had nine first-half shots, including a Brandon Whitsett penalty kick, but it was scoreless at halftime.
"We really need to finish our chances," Pinzon said. "We need to just be a little more dangerous inside."
Pinzon's "monster in the middle," Jeff Livingston, scored with 24 minutes left off an indirect kick. Keeper Alex Bowers (11 saves) got two hands on the low shot, but the ball trickled in.
The PHU defense was led by Max Venker and Danny Peterson.
- ERIC MUSKATEVC
Osceola scores five in first, routs Lehigh
SEMINOLE - Lehigh had the daunting task of playing a class 4A regional game against a hot Osceola team which recently beat Palmetto. The Warriors (11-2-3) dismantled the overmatched Lehigh defense by scoring five first-half goals in a 6-0 victory on a foggy night at Osceola. Osceola took 26 shots, with Thomas Schreck recording a hat trick.
Seven minutes into the game, Adam Bocanegra scored from 8 yards out on an assist from Brent Spyker. Jason Villalba scored on a 7-yard shot past Daniel Platas. After a goal by Nick Morle, Schreck scored two goals three minutes apart.
Platas had seven saves.
- CAMINO IMONDI
SPC gets a scare, wins in OT
St. Petersburg Catholic almost let an easy victory slip away in a 3A region quarterfinal against Wauchula Hardee. But it fought through overtime to win 3-2.
SPC (12-3-4) hosts Immokalee on Tuesday in the region semifinals. Immokalee defeated Boca Raton Pope John Paul II 4-3 in overtime.
The Barons dominated most of the game and led 2-0 by halftime on goals by Matthew Skonicki. But Hardee (15-3-1) scored twice during the second half to force overtime. SPC's Joe Waugh sent a low, hard shot from 25 yards to win it.