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PALM HARBOR - The bus driver going to pick up Pinellas Park for its match against Alonso got lost Wednesday night, delaying kickoff by nearly an hour. The Ravens might have been better off if the Patriots had not shown up.
The Patriots built a two-goal advantage and upset the Ravens 3-1 while Countryside cruised into Friday's championship match of the Hurricane Watch Tournament with a 5-1 win against Clearwater.
"I thought we played well and moved the ball like we should," Patriots coach Larry Ferrol said. "We played our game."
Pinellas Park's game was strong defense, coupled with outstanding play up top from strikers Spencer Bradham and Brian Rojas. Bradham scored twice and Rojas once, and each assisted on the other's strike.
"They've been fighting all season for goals but they're starting to see they can help each other to score by distributing the ball," Ferrol said.
Bradham opened scoring on a penalty kick three minutes in when Alonso goalkeeper Nicholas Hall was called for a reckless challenge. Bradham scored again in the 31st minute off a Rojas feed. Rojas made a run toward goal, completely stopped his dribble to draw the defender, then chipped a through ball to Bradham for the finish.
After an Alonso goal cut it to 2-1 just before halftime, Pinellas Park's defense clamped down. The score remained that way until the final minute when Bradham returned the favor, setting up a Rojas header with a long throw in.
"Give them credit, Pinellas Park played well," Ravens coach Ray DiPompo said. "And we didn't finish our chances."
Countryside's speed and pinpoint passing were too much for Clearwater. The Cougars attacked the Tornadoes' flanks and built a 4-0 halftime lead before coach Dave Sica pulled his starters.
"It was good because we got a chance to see a lot of guys play," Sica said. "And we had some nice finishes."
Sica praised the play of sweeper Eddie Lopez, who not only organized the back but connected on several long passes that set up Cougar attacks.
"(Lopez) was tremendous," Sica said. "He was patient and made some great feeds."
Mike Favero, who scored a pair of goals, ran under a long ball from Lopez for the first goal seven minutes in. Favero could have finished with a hat trick, but he dummied a ball through his legs in the box to teammate Griffin Gilstrap, who put Countryside up 2-0 six minutes later. Jake Gerlach and Josh Kent rounded out the scoring for the Cougars, while Clearwater's lone strike came off a drive from Patrick Carter.
Dixie Hollins faces Clearwater at 6 p.m. today; PHU meets Alonso at 8. If PHU ties or wins, it faces Countryside in the final.