Lecanto wins as a team
By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
Published February 29, 2004
FORT LAUDERDALE - Lined up two across, Lecanto exited Lockhart Stadium on Saturday night and headed toward the bus. As the Panthers drew near their destination, a swarm of energetic fans awaited.
One Lecanto player hollered, "Oh, yeah!" A teammate followed. Then another. Within seconds, the squad was chanting in unison. "Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah!"
The moment was incredibly symbolic. On this breezy South Florida night, the Panthers came together as few teams in Citrus County have. Thanks to a dominating second-half performance, Lecanto headed home with the Class 4A championship after a convincing 3-1 win over Rockledge.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," Panthers forward Matt Thomashunis said.
Thomashunis scored in the 52nd minute, and Kyle Davis added goals in the 58th and 70th. The defense did the rest, as Lecanto (26-1-1) capped a memorable weekend in style.
The school's only previous state titles came in 1994 (boys cross country) and 1996 (softball). No other county school has claimed a team championship.
The score wasn't close, but this was no cakewalk. The teams battled to a scoreless tie in the first half in what was a defensive clinic by both squads. Rockledge (20-4-6) had the best chance in the half, but Lecanto defender Nick Burns kept the Raiders off the board with a dramatic header on Daniel Morales' shot in the 35th minute. Panthers keeper Chris Thomashunis, while attempting to prevent a score seconds earlier, had fallen down, leaving the net briefly open. Lecanto went on the attack in the second half. Twelve minutes in, Matt Thomashunis blasted a shot from the left wing that Rockledge keeper Corey Ball blocked with his foot. But the ball deflected right to Thomashunis, who kicked it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Six minutes later the Panthers struck again. On a high crossing pass from Richard Good, who scored Lecanto's goal in Friday's semifinal win over Tallahassee Leon, Davis leapt into the air and pushed a header past Ball.
Rockledge didn't roll over. Peter McLean scored in the 71st minute, and the Raiders threatened with corners in the 73rd and 76th minutes, producing more than a few tense moments for Lecanto.
[Last modified February 29, 2004, 01:15:11]
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