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Largo and Pinellas Park fall in district semifinal action.
By JOHN C. COTEY
Published January 24, 2008
DUNEDIN - No surprises here.
Once again, it will be Palm Harbor University and East Lake squaring off for the Class 5A, District 9 championship, as both teams won semifinals Wednesday.
The Hurricanes rolled over Largo 5-0, and the Eagles picked apart Pinellas Park 4-0 to set up Friday's championship.
Though they tied the last time they met in December, PHU has stood in the way of the Eagles' postseason success the past two seasons.
While the Hurricanes (19-1-2) and Eagles (13-2-2) have split the past two district titles, PHU has ended the East Lake season both times in the region championship.
For seniors like Drew Petzoldt, the last chance to make it to state once again begins Friday against their arch-rivals. Both teams clinched playoff berths, but the winner will play at home and likely avoid state power Jesuit in the first round.
"We've been working and training hard for this," Petzoldt said. "We think we've put together a pretty good team this year. It's gotta be our year."
Petzoldt is one of just three seniors on the East Lake roster, but the forward said it is the infusion of younger players this year that makes the Eagles dangerous.
Junior Josh Gonzalez did most of the damage against Pinellas Park with his buttery passing, setting up the first three goals for the Eagles.
His short cross to sophomore Brent Merrick was headed in to make it 1-0 at halftime. He fueled a more aggressive attack in the second half with a nice cross out of blanket defense to set up senior Trevor Pusch's goal, and a perfect flick to sophomore Nick Patterson resulted in another goal.
"He's been our best kept secret," said first-year coach Sergei Stopek, a PHU assistant the previous two seasons.
Pinellas Park finished 8-10-3.
Ishmail Kamara scored twice in PHU's victory over Largo (6-8-1), with Jeremy Paul, Sam Venker and Sam Stein adding goals.