Boys soccer: Class 6A-7 semifinals

By DOUG KATES, Times Correspondent
Published January 24, 2008

CLEARWATER - Brendan Howard waited four years to reach a district championship game, and thanks to three of his own goals Wednesday night, he's finally getting the chance.

Howard played two years with Sickles and last year with Gaither, but never got past the semifinals. Wednesday night he collected his second three-goal game of the season as Howard led Gaither (18-2-3) past his former team 3-2.

"That was probably as hard as I've worked all season," Howard said. "I had just one other (hat trick), but this was probably the best."

The Cowboys led 2-0 past the halfway point of the second half when the Gryphons (10-8-5) used a 45-yard kick from Josh Bissen and a 35-yard kick from David Piazza - less than four minutes apart - to tie the score at 2.

"They were just unbelievable shots," said Gaither coach Eric Sims, who still had his team playing aggressively with a two-goal advantage. "Play more defensive? I don't think it would have stopped their two goals. It's not my style."

The tie didn't last long. Two minutes after, Howard knocked in his 15th goal of the season for the winner. "As soon as they scored, I just wanted to get that last one back," Howard said.

Gaither, the No. 2 seed, will meet Alonso, the No. 1 seed, in Friday's Class 6A-7 championship.

Alonso (26-2) was a 3-1 winner over host Countryside.

Tom Turke put the Ravens in front 1-0 and Jagger Martinez tied the score for the Cougars (9-7-5). Shomari Elliot gave Alonso the lead before the first half ended. Julio Perez added an insurance goal in the second half.