SEMINOLE - When Osceola breaks its huddle at the start of a game, it doesn't shout loud, boastful cheers. There's no song and dance.
"Edd," is all that needs to be said.
The Warriors have dedicated this season to former teammate Edd Zapor, who died in a motorcycle accident in December. The team carries Zapor's memory to Fort Lauderdale, where it competes for its first state title.
"As far as we go, we dedicate it to him," senior midfielder Juan Nieto said. "Even if we lose, we dedicate it to him."
Today, Osceola plays Rockledge in a Class 4A semifinal. It would face Lecanto or Tallahassee Leon in Saturday's final. The one thing the Warriors can't do today, as they have before all home games, is visit a memorial built in Zapor's memory. Across the street from Osceola Middle School, which is next door to the high school, two crosses, flowers, balloons and a pink stuffed animal stand in the grass near the site of Zapor's accident.
"Most of them talk to him and say we'll win this for you," Osceola coach Tim Rachford said. "They're really focusing on him."
Rachford said he believes the accident has given his team a more serious mind-set. The Warriors started playing stronger and more as a team in the second half of the season. Senior forwards Thomas Schreck and Brent Spyker have been a double threat. Schreck has two hat tricks in the playoffs and Spyker one. Nieto and Jason Villalba pull the Warriors' attack together at midfield, and senior goalkeeper Rickie Bose has allowed one goal in the playoffs.
Osceola's defense has played better than even some of the veterans expected. A freshman and two sophomores, Vinny Gianfrencesco, Chad Weber and Bert Waterman, have replaced a defense the Warriors considered their strength last season. "We thought we were going to get creamed," Nieto said. "But the new players have really stepped up."
Zapor's presence isn't necessarily missed on the field. He wasn't a leading scorer or even a starter. He was trying to raise his grades last semester so he would be eligible. Still, Zapor was committed. He went to every game, including Palmetto and Bradenton. "He had a team attitude," Villalba said. "He wasn't a selfish player."
After Zapor's death, his family directed donations to his soccer club, Largo United, and Osceola. The Warriors have received more than $2,500. The team used the money for warmups and the trip to Fort Lauderdale.
"It's nice we can do something with the money he would have wanted," Rachford said. "The kid just loved soccer."