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Dominant D vs. fleet feet

Crystal River is tough in goal, which Lecanto hopes to counter with speedy players tonight.

By BRETT KELMAN
Published January 26, 2007


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LECANTO - After a rout and a nail-biter on Wednesday, the players for today's Class 4A, District 6 championship are set.

Crystal River, which stomped Citrus 5-0, plays Lecanto, which sneaked past Belleview 2-1. The Pirates have clashed with the Panthers twice, resulting in a 2-0 Crystal River win and 1-all tie. But tonight's 7 p.m. game at Lecanto is all that matters.

Crystal River coach Mike Callaway praises an experienced defense as the Pirates' greatest strength. The Pirates will start three seniors on defense and senior Alex Crandall as keeper.

"These seniors have played together since they were 8 or 9. There is almost nobody better in the district," Callaway said.

On Wednesday, the big-footed Pirate defenders trapped the ball deep in Citrus territory, locked down the midfield line and boomed more shots than the seven they allowed the 'Canes. Senior defender Jarrod Green, who frequently uses his bursts of speed to counterattack, scored two goals.

Lecanto coach Doug Warren, who studied Citrus' failed attacks Wednesday, feels there is only one way to penetrate the stingy Pirates defense.

"We will need to stick together and use short passes to stretch them out," he said. "Long passes just won't be an option."

While the Pirates pride themselves on solid defense, Lecanto's has been the subject of many recent adjustments. The Panthers' star sweeper, Tyler Deem, didn't play against Belleview on Wednesday and is unlikely to play against Crystal River.

With Deem out, the Panthers have replaced experience with the raw speed of sophomore Chris Lim, who debuted at sweeper on Wednesday.

After watching how Crystal River decimated Citrus with the long ball, Warren thinks Lim's speed will be essential.

"We put Chris back there because he's the quickest guy we've got. He'll always be the quickest guy on both teams," Warren said.

Against Belleview, Lim shined for the first half but faltered later when an invigorated Belleview capitalized on several of his misjudged clears. After Lim's breakdown, Belleview forwards fired at will, tallying most of their 34 shots, and the Panthers were lifted by goalie Tyler Jordan, who racked up 17 saves.

Jordan may need to make just as many today.

"That's one of the reasons the defense plays as well as they do. They know Tyler is back there to clean up," Warren said after Wednesday's game.

Today, Warren expects every player, on both teams, to play like Jordan - with everything they have.

"Every game from now on is the biggest game of their lives," Warren said moments after the Panthers' semifinal win. Callaway, despite his easy victory, found much less to be excited about Wednesday.

"We'd better not play that much long ball in the finals," he said.

[Last modified January 25, 2007, 23:12:10]


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