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By SCOTT PURKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001
TAMPA -- It wasn't strange that Jesuit won the Class 2A state title Saturday.
What else would you expect? Jesuit came in 29-2, was ranked No. 2 in the nation by foxstudentsports.com, No. 1 in the FACA state poll and had won four of the past six state titles.
Plus the Tigers' final challenger was Riviera Beach Suncoast, a surprising survivor with a 15-5-2 record. Many predicted a Jesuit victory by five or six.
So here's the strange thing: Jesuit didn't score.
In the 77th minute, after missing countless opportunities, Jesuit's John Kluft crossed a ball that bounced off a Suncoast defender's back and into the net.
Jesuit led 1-0, which is how it ended.
"It is a little weird, winning that way," Jesuit coach Bob Bauman said. "I honestly can't remember winning on an own goal in the past five years. But we'll take it.
"Today, we were the better team, and whether we won on an own goal, or in overtime or on penalty kicks, I felt like we deserved it. I felt like we dominated the play."
And they did it despite being down a man for most of the game. In the 21st minute, Tom Szvetitz was red-carded for tackling a Suncoast player.
"That hurt, but we still kept the pressure on them," Kluft said. "And even though I'd say we played poorly and missed so many opportunities (Jesuit outshot Suncoast 18-8), I think this shows how strong this team is."
Jesuit, which started nine seniors and sometimes had 11 on the field Saturday, lost in last season's final 3-1 to Orlando Bishop Moore.
TAMPA -- In the past two seasons, Gaither has found every conceivable way to win. Saturday, it ran out of miracles.
The Class 4A state final between Gaither and Orange Park was an even matchup on the field, ending 0-0 after regulation and four overtimes. But the Raiders pulled out the victory with a 4-3 edge in penalty kicks.
Gaither (24-4-1) fell short of its bid to become the first public school since Daytona Beach Seabreeze in 1992-93 to repeat one year after it defeated Orange Park 1-0 in the state semifinals.
In the shootout, the Raiders converted on all four of their shots and goalie Chris Goralczyk stopped a shot by Gaither's Travis Bourguinon. Brenden Crampton's last shot sailed high.
"I feel bad for the kids," Gaither coach Adrian Bush said. "They worked so hard for this. We practice PK's every day. Really, though, in a game like this, it's just a crapshoot. That's life. There has to be one winner."
Orange Park (25-2-2) nearly took a lead in the eighth minute when Richard Blackburn got free on the right side of the box. But his shot hit the side of the net.
"Their defense won the title for them," Bush said. "They were very solid. But I don't feel we came out and played. We waited for something to happen instead of making it happen ourselves.
Bush, though, said he was proud of the seniors, who reached three consecutive state tournaments.
-- JEREMY RASMUSSEN