Cougars prove up to the Challenge
By BRANDON WRIGHT
Published November 26, 2006
SARASOTA - Countryside got a fortunate break while Palm Harbor U. couldn't catch one. The Cougars won their division in the 28th Puma Challenge; the Hurricanes lost theirs.
The Cougars beat Seminole 1-0 on an own goal in the 60th minute to win the Red Division for the second year in a row. Winter Park got an early goal and held on to beat PHU 1-0 in the Yellow Division, handing the Hurricanes their first loss of the season.
"I don't know what it is, but we came out in slow motion and Seminole outworked us for two-thirds of the game," Countryside coach Dave Sica said. "Honestly, we got lucky."
Countryside's Josh Kent and Seminole goalkeeper T.J. Grzeskowski both charged for a free ball and as they collided, the ball squirted away toward the left post. Kent stayed on his feet and flicked the ball across the goal mouth, but it caromed off Seminole defender Logan Kelley and in for the winner.
The breaks, however, did not go PHU's way. Missing Eugene Starikov (flu) for the third straight match, the Hurricanes had trouble developing offensive continuity. Winter Park scored midway through the first half and the Hurricanes, despite several good chances in the second half, were unable to capitalize.
Though Largo did not advance to the championship round, the Packers had an impressive showing. After not scoring a goal in last year's tournament, Largo finished 2-1 and defeated Gaither 3-2 in its final match of pool play.
Ryan Harder scored a pair of goals against Gaither, including the winner on a header with three minutes to play. Harder finished with four goals and an assist in the tournament.
Clearwater Central Catholic won the girls division, wrapping up play with a 3-0 win over East Lake and a 2-1 victory over Jacksonville Fletcher. Kathleen Hunter scored CCC's first goal against Fletcher and Madison Hanson got the winner.