Eagles rally for date with 'Canes

Eagles escape with win, advance to Friday night's championship.

Published January 25, 2007

PINELLAS PARK - Trailing 3-1 in penalty kicks with two rounds remaining, East Lake's season looked to surely be over. All Largo had to do was convert one of its two remaining chances and the Packers' Cinderella season would extend to the postseason.

But midnight came a bit prematurely.

Trevor Pusch buried a ball into the lower left of the goal during driving rain as the Eagles escaped with a 2-2 (5-4 in PKs) win, advancing to Friday night's championship.

"I'm speechless," East Lake coach Tom Malinosky said. "It's unfortunate a match like this came down to penalty kicks."

Largo, which finished 14-6-2 after winning just five matches last season, had a chance to put the match away up 3-1 in PKs, but Tom Burke and Luis Marraquin both missed high and wide while Juan Alcala and Johnathan Gonzalez converted to force a second round. Tied 4-4, Largo's Jordan Berglund banged his shot off the post and Pusch connected to set off a wild celebration.

"My hat's off to Largo," Malinosky said. "They performed tonight."

East Lake (12-6-4), playing without striker Drew Petzoldt after he received a red card Tuesday night, twice erased a one-goal deficit. Pat Daigle's goal gave Largo a 1-0 halftime lead but Mark Christiansen equalized it just out of the break. Marraquin again put Largo ahead, but the Eagles fought back to tie it on an Alcala strike.

East Lake faces Palm Harbor University, an 8-0 mercy-rule winner against Tarpon Springs (8-6-1), Friday in a rematch of last year's district final won by the Eagles. Eugene Starikov had four goals for PHU (16-4-1) while Sebastien Millette added a pair. The Hurricanes' Ben Sweat and Brad Salemi rounded out scoring.

Class 5A-11

SEMINOLE - Lakewood and Seminole are proving adept at district soccer action that includes downpours, cold winds, a slick field and soaked players. Neither team has played in the rain all season, but the weather has been wet for the quarterfinals and semis.

Not too worry. The Spartans and Warhawks are unbeaten in the postseason.

On Wednesday, Lakewood shut out Dixie Hollins 4-0 and Seminole blanked Northeast 4-0. The Spartans (12-2) and Warhawks (10-6-5) meet Friday for the championship.

"These have been the first two rain games we've had all season, but we came to play," first-year Lakewood coach Rob Bauer said.

Spartans keeper Devan Wade stopped two shots for his eighth shutout of the season. The offense got off to a slow start, then scored on its last two shots in the first half and first two shots of the second half. Evan Richardson finished the night with two goals; Matt Bloom and Troy Matthews each had one.

"For the first 25 minutes they decided to be individuals," Bauer said. "They figured out that truly wasn't working and they came together."

Seminole's goals were more spread out. Sebastian Thuriere netted a pair of first-half goals, while Jacob Settle and Tyler Ingham added second-half ones. Keeper T.J. Grzeskowski merely played kickball most of the night as the defense allowed only one shot that went wide.

Warhawks coach Rick Masi likes it when his goalie goes untested.

"It means we put a lot of pressure on them," he said.

Doug Kates, Times correspondent