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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
TAMPA - Regulation play ended scoreless and Nathan Smith, a goalkeeper who had barely played during the season and hadn't played at all during Friday's region final, made a bold statement to Jesuit coach Bob Bauman.
Smith said, "If it goes to PKs (penalty kicks) I want a chance to stop 'em."
Bauman agreed, and after two sudden-death overtimes, the coach kept his word. Smith - along with Justin Morris, who had played the entire game - defended the five penalty kicks against Immokalee.
Ten alternating team shots later, Morris was unable to stop his two shot attempts.
Smith made the key, diving stop that won the game, 4-3 in the PKs.
"I just knew I would make a stop," Smith said. "I just knew it."
The victory sends Jesuit (25-4-1) to next week's state final four, a place Bauman believes the Tigers can come out victorious.
"I think we're in the right frame of mind," Bauman said. "Tonight we were confident and in the second half we thought it would just a matter of time before we slipped one in.
"We had some chances (particularly in the 55th and 74th minutes when shots missed by inches) but couldn't quite get it done. ... On the other end our defense played absolutely fantastic."
Through regulation and the overtimes each squad had just eight shots on goal, but Jesuit controlled the ball for the majority of the match. The chances for Immokalee (25-2) came mostly on breakaways and quick strikes.
"They had so much speed but we found ways to get it done," Bauman said.
The penalty kick that sealed victory came off the right foot of Santi Alexis, who sent his shot into the high right corner.
2A: Tampa Prep's Taylor steals show
FORT MYERS - Tampa Prep's Zach Taylor scored twice Friday, leading the Terrapins past Fort Myers Evangelical Christian 2-0 in the Region 3 final.
Taylor, a junior, was left unattended in front of the Sentinels goal 24 minutes in. A pass found Taylor, who sneaked it past ECS goalkeeper Kyle Petrick for the first goal.
Less than eight minutes later, Taylor's second goal bore a striking resemblance to the first. He was again ahead of the ECS defenders in front of the goal. Freshman Jack Koehler hit him with a cross-field pass that Taylor put in the back of the net.
"We're just going to celebrate this victory, they (ECS) put up a great game, they put a lot of pressure on us throughout, but we countered pretty quickly," Tampa Prep coach Jose De Costa said. "I couldn't be more proud of my guys."
Before halftime the Sentinels put up an inbounds pass in front of Tampa Prep's goal that came close to the line three or more times, but never crossed it.
--FORT MYERS NEWS-PRESS
6A: Countryside topples Gaither
CLEARWATER - After Countryside handed Gaither its first loss of the season in penalty kicks Jan.27, clinching the district title, many wondered if the Cougars got lucky. The Cowboys outshot Countryside that night, but the Cougars won the PK's.
"Everyone thought it was a fluke when we beat them last time," Countryside's Mike Favero said. "No one thought we could do it again."
If once is a fluke, twice is a trend.
Favero scored twice in the first 20 minutes and the Cougars' defense held from there as Countryside knocked off nationally-ranked Gaither 2-0 for the second time in as many weeks and advanced to the state final four.
For Gaither (23-2-2), it has been a rough two weeks. The Cowboys, ranked No.4 in the country by studentsportssoccer.com, lost two starters (Fernando Gonzalez and Doug Cobb) to injury before falling to Countryside (26-4) in the district final and again Friday.
"(Countryside) just wanted it a little bit more," Gaither coach Eric Sims said. "It just seemed like they were winning everything."
Favero put Countryside up 1-0 in the third minute on a feed from Juan Rivas. But as big as that was, forward Kyle Kuhlman might have made the play of the match in the 11th minute. Gaither's Trent Anderson sent in a low, driving corner kick across the goalmouth to Eddie Ababio, who fired to the far post. With Cougars' keeper Jeff Attinella guarding the near post, Ababio's shot looked to be going in. But Kuhlman knocked the ball away to preserve the shutout.