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By LINDA ROTHSTEIN, BRANT JAMES and CAREY FREEMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 2, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Countryside and Land O'Lakes won their semifinal games Thursday to advance to the Class 3A, District 9 final at 8 tonight at Ridgewood.
Countryside defeated River Ridge in penalty kicks in the early game, and Land O'Lakes shut out Ridgewood 1-0 in the late game.
It was a defensive battle in the first half between Countryside and River Ridge as the teams were scoreless at halftime. Countryside broke the stalemate when Brian Vroman scored five minutes into the second half.
River Ridge's David Norton tied it up with a goal with about 41/2 minutes left.
The game went into quadruple overtime, with two regular five-minute halves and two sudden-death five-minute halves. The game finally came down to penalty kicks. Countryside hit three penalty kicks in a row while River Ridge missed three in a row.
"The middle is really where they beat us, and we were fortunate enough to hang on until the end and be able to do the PKs," River Ridge coach Concepcion Ledezma said. "I thought we would have the advantage there."
The second game also was a defensive showdown. Land O'Lakes scored 25:30 into the first half as Eric Bossardt-Martin fed a corner kick to Kyle Crawford, who knocked the ball into the goal to give Land O'Lakes a 1-0 lead.
"They worked through it," Land O'Lakes coach Mark Pearson said. "I thought we had so many chances that we could have capitalized on. I thought it could have been six or seven, but we just put too many at the keeper again."
-- LINDA ROTHSTEIN
BROOKSVILLE -- Hudson coach Ron Ladimir knows his team didn't play well Thursday in the semifinals. He knows it. He knows why. He doesn't care.
Despite going into hibernation mode after taking a two-goal lead in the first half, the top-seeded Cobras ousted No. 4 Zephyrhills 3-1 to earn their second shot at a district title in two years.
"It wasn't a great performance, but you're always happy when you win," Ladimir said. "It was good enough, and basically this time of year, good enough is all you need."
Hudson secured an automatic berth into the state tournament and will face third-seeded Central at 7 tonight in Brooksville. The Bears earned their spot when No. 2 Springstead -- the reigning district champ and their semifinal opponent -- forfeited because of team disciplinary action taken Wednesday.
With 28:48 left in the first half, midfielder Robert Pollock drew goaltender Eric Cortright off of his line and popped in a goal for a 2-0 lead. The goal was Pollock's team-leading 25th.
The Cobras continued to control the midfield behind Pollock, Dominic Thompson and Davis Hanley, but their will to attack seemed to wane, Ladimir said.
"That's high school," Ladimir said. "Their mind wanders. They start thinking and getting comfortable, and that's the problem."
Zephyrhills coach Phillip Castro rallied his team at halftime with an infusion of youth. Junior varsity call-up Dustin Hill maneuvered to the right of the box and punched a shot past Robby Mahlar to cut the lead to 2-1 with 34:53 left.
"If we could have played that way in the first half, maybe it could have been different," Castro said. "But you let a team up 2-0 in the first half and it's tough to fight back."
Hudson put the game away when Jarle Thy headed in a Pollock direct kick with 10:52 remaining. The goal was Hudson's second off of a restart. Billy Boyko gave the Cobras a 1-0 lead less than six minutes into the game with a header off of a Hanley corner.
-- BRANT JAMES
LECANTO -- His left leg heavily bandaged and his face wincing with every step, Citrus' Craig Ziegler would not be denied his chance to play in Thursday's semifinal.
Good thing, too. For without Ziegler's determination, the two-time defending champion Hurricanes probably would be home now rather than preparing for tonight's final against Crystal River, which defeated Dunnellon 10-0 in the first semifinal.
As it is, the Hurricanes survived thanks to Alex Posta's two first-half goals and the efforts of Ziegler, whose grit and determination saved Citrus in the final minutes of a 2-1 victory over Lecanto.
"My hamstring has been pulled for two weeks," Ziegler said. "But this is my senior year, and I just had to play against (Lecanto). I just wanted to give it all I had and play the best defense I could."
Few would argue Ziegler did anything less. A stalwart for the Hurricanes (9-9-3) throughout the game, Ziegler saved his best for last, clearing a potential ball off of the line with less than two minutes left. Lecanto, which outshot Citrus 13-6, did not get close again as the Panthers (12-7-2) were eliminated in the semifinals for the second consecutive season. Some credit also should go to Posta, who put the Hurricanes ahead with two brilliant strikes in the first half. The first, with Citrus trailing 1-0 after a goal by Andy Adolfsson, came from more than 30 yards out, clipping the underside of the crossbar and slipping past Nick Rowthorn.
Posta scored his second goal just minutes later when he broke free down the right side, beat one defender and blasted a shot past Rowthorn for a 2-1 lead.
Meanwhile, the Crystal River maintained its top form in thrashing Dunnellon (10-13-1), ending the game a little more than six minutes into the second half when Peter Manzoli converted a penalty kick. Donnie Caldwell led the Pirates (19-1-2) with five goals, improving his school-record total to 48.
-- CAREY FREEMAN