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By ROD GIPSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2001
TAMPA -- The idea behind the Gaither Soccer Field Classic was to bring together some of the area's elite teams that might not usually face each other. And with four of the state's top teams and three of the top 15 in the country, that's exactly what the inaugural event has become. Unfortunately for Gaither, it found that out on the opening night, falling 2-1 to Land O'Lakes on a goal in the 75th minute. "This is a really good win for us," said Land O'Lakes coach Mark Pearson, whose team is 16-1-1 and ranked No. 4 in Class 3A. "We were really off in the first half, but we settled down, did a better job defensively and got the situation we wanted late in the game. And it worked beautifully."
The situation the Gators got was a Cowboy defense that crept up, leaving room to move behind it. That's what Land O'Lakes midfielder Jason Lipinski did before passing to Eric Bossardt-Martin, who slipped a shot past James Cobb for the winning goal. That play seemed far off in the first half, when Gaither (13-2), ranked No. 1 in Class 4A and third in the Fox Fab 50 National Poll, dominated. The Cowboys maintained possession for most of the first 40 minutes and took the lead when Brenden Crampton got enough of his head on a throw-in to deflect the ball past Greg Cline.
The lead held up until an own goal 11 minutes into the second half tied it up. Cline made 11 saves, several from close range.
"(Cline) was tremendous," said Pearson, who has coached Land O'Lakes to two wins against Gaither in three seasons.
"He is one of the premier goalkeepers in the state, and he kept us in this game. He made several big saves, and it really picked his teammates up. And they responded."