PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Gulf junior Novica Maric led the Buccaneers to the region playoffs thanks to his scoring prowess.
NEW PORT RICHEY - Heading into this season, word was that stopping Novica Maric meant stopping Gulf.
Gulf went a respectable 14-10-3, was a district runner-up and played in a region quarterfinal. But win, lose or draw, there was no stopping Maric, who won his second straight county scoring title.
Maric scored a county-leading 53 goals, two shy of the single-season record set by Land O'Lakes' Justin Geisler in the 1999-2000 season.
Along the way, Maric became the Bucs' single-season and career goals leader. Alex Maric, Novica's brother and a 2002 Gulf graduate, had 41 in a season and 78 career goals. Gulf coach Sam Koleduk, a 1987 Gulf graduate, had 45 and 84, respectively.
"Fifty(-plus) goals," marveled Mitchell coach Pio Rizzo, who played on two state final four teams at River Ridge. "I had a few good seasons, but I didn't get half that."
Coming off a 30-goal season, Maric's goal was to surpass the marks set by his older brother and Koleduk. Geisler's record might have fallen as well had not Koleduk pulled Maric in the second half of some early-season games after the junior forward netted 12 goals in the first four games.
"It's hard to take the kid out," Koleduk said. "We can't score without him."
In fact, Maric outscored the rest of the Bucs, who combined for 41 goals.
During the season, Maric often called his older brother, who plays at Lenoir-Rhyne in North Carolina. The trash-talking only "made it sweeter," Novica said of breaking Alex's record.
"I called him at the college and told him," Maric said. "He couldn't believe it."
"I'm proud of him," said Alex, adding that he thinks his brother has a shot at Geisler's mark.
"(Novica is) quick and fast," said Alex, who played against Geisler as a sophomore. "(Geisler) was tall and strong. I think Novica (No-WITS-ah) is more technical on the ball."
"He's a lot more technical than I was," Koleduk said. "When he gets the ball at his feet he's going to burn you."
Maric is confident he can break Geisler's mark as a senior. Barring injuries, of course.
Maric's twin brother Bosho (BO-jo) will have a lot to do with Maric's pursuit of Geisler. Especially since he led the county with 36 assists.
"Without Bosho, I wouldn't have been able to break (Gulf's records)," Maric said.
Since the season ended, Maric has played on a club team with Koleduk, Ridgewood forward Richard Jata and former Gulf standout Drew Roberts.
In a league of primarily adults, Koleduk said opponents often overlook Maric, in part because of his 5-foot-9, 140-pound stature.
"For the men's team, he's kind of small so they don't even mark him," Koleduk said. "Then, after a while, they're like, "We better start.' He still scored one of two (goals) a game. You wonder how this kid does it. He's very deceptive."
Added Alex Maric, "He's just quick and fast. If you have the skill, you can do whatever."
Those skills took years to develop and were honed as a youngster playing soccer with his brothers in Bosnia until the family moved to New Port Richey in 1999.
Advancing further into the playoffs than this year's region quarterfinal and earning a college scholarship rank among Maric's primary goals. And, there is another record waiting to fall.
"I can break it," Maric said of the 55-goal mark. "It would be nice to make history."
Point already made.2003-04 TIMES ALL-PASCO COUNTY BOYS SOCCER TEAM
NOVICA MARIC: JR., F, GULF: Won his second straight county scoring title. His 86 career goals are the most in school history. Gulf coach Sammy Koleduk (Class of 1987) tallied 84 and Alex Maric, Novica's brother and a 2002 Gulf graduate, scored 78.
TANNER WOLFE: SR., F, RIDGEWOOD: Rams scoring leader for the second straight season, had career highs of 29 goals and 82 points. Teamed with longtime club teammate Richard Jata to form the county's best 1-2 scoring duo.
RYAN VILLIARD: SR., F, MITCHELL: Team scoring leader on most productive squad in school's four-year history. Set school records with 31 goals and 76 points to pace the Mustangs to conference and district titles and their first playoff win.
JEREMY ENIX: JR., F, HUDSON: Despite missing nine games to injury, Enix led the Cobras in scoring with 18 goals and 42 assists. Scored both goals in 2-0 district final win over Gulf, lifting the Cobras to their fourth district title in six seasons.
BOSHO MARIC: JR., MF, GULF: The Bucs' assist leader with 36 and primary set-up player for his twin brother, Novica. Also scored 14 goals, including a hat trick in a 3-2 district semifinal upset win over Ridgewood.
BRYAN SUMNER: JR., MF, WESLEY CHAPEL: Deft passer gave the Wildcats two scoring threats up front. Became the school's single-season assists leader with 14 and worked well with team scoring leader Gabe Montelongo.
GABE MONTELONGO: SR., MF, WESLEY CHAPEL: Hard-nosed attacker nearly doubled last season's output (17 goals, 38 points). Set school records with 32 goals and 74 points, leading the Wildcats to a school-best 14-win season and second consecutive playoff berth.
RICHARD JATA: SR., MF, RIDGEWOOD: Settled in at his fourth school in four years and had a career season with 32 goals and 77 points. Teamed with pal Tanner Wolfe to give the Rams a formidable offense. Named Sunshine State Conference player of the year.
MIKE McDEVITT: SR., D, MITCHELL: A four-year varsity player, including his freshman season at Tampa Catholic, McDevitt became the emotional leader and anchor of the Mustangs' backliners.
STEVE PURVIANCE: SR., D, GULF: Not only was he the team's steadiest defender, but Purviance developed a knack for shot-blocking, especially in big games, to help keeper Cellen Neptune.
CRAIG BIALKOSKI: JR., D, HUDSON: Accustomed to his role as the steadiest and toughest player on the Cobras' revamped defensive unit. A stalwart sweeper on a defense-oriented team.
KYLE BOERNER: JR., GK, LAND O'LAKES: Though he played on a struggling team, Boerner kept the Gators in most games. Hands-down the best keeper in the county for the second straight season.SECOND TEAM
Nelson Garcia, Sr., F, Land O'Lakes
Sean Doyle, So., F, River Ridge
Jose Arroyo, Jr., F, Wesley Chapel
Dimos Kalathakis, Sr., MF, R'wood
Jarrod Madonna, Sr., MF, Mitchell
Andrew Falcon, Sr., MF, LOL
Will Smith, Sr., MF, Hudson
Phillip Rossi, So., D, Wesley Chapel
Sean Kelly, So., D, Wesley Chapel
Sean Bokee, Jr., D, Land O'Lakes
Michael Pollock, Sr., D, Hudson
Travis Miller, Sr., GK, HudsonHONORABLE MENTION
Gulf - Cellen Neptune, So., GK; Erick Walsh, Fr., D. Hudson - David Connors, Sr., F; Tim Cook, Sr., MF; Matt Edelman, Jr., MF. Land O'Lakes - Andrew Falcon, Sr., MF; Ryan O'Connell, Jr., D; Andrew Kimpland, So., GK; T.R. Finney, So., D. Mitchell - Matt Wegener, So., GK; Glenn Josephik, Sr., F; Andrew Dematos, Jr., MF; Steve Frantz, Sr., MF. Pasco - Luis Hernandez, Fr., GK; Roberto Cervantes, Fr., MF. Ridgewood - David McNally, Jr., GK; Chris Daly, Jr., F. Mike Mansfield, Sr., D. River Ridge - Cameron Baker, So., GK; Matt Baker, Sr., D; Derek Firlik, Sr., D. Wesley Chapel - Sami Jadallah, Sr., MF. Zephyrhills - Spencer Border, So., GK.