Gaither fell short of the 4A state soccer championship, but had an impressive season.
By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001
NORTHDALE -- Winning championships and setting records has become a tradition for the Gaither boys soccer team and the 2000-2001 season was no exception.
The Cowboys finished one score short of a second consecutive Class 4A state championship, dropping a decision to Orange Park after finishing the regulation title match, overtime and sudden death overtime 0-0. Orange Park won with a 4-3 success rate in penalty kicks recording a 1-0 score.
But Gaither still completed one of its best seasons in history.
Adrian Bush has been head coach for the Gaither boys soccer team for six seasons, starting in 1995. The Cowboys have accumulated a record of 117-25-9 while Bush has been coaching.
"We had another good season this year with everyone contributing a full team effort," Bush said. "The addition of Bryce Wegerle boosted our production and he was recognized for his outstanding play with All-American honors, but our defense played excellent all season too."
Over the mid-season holiday break, the Cowboys won the Elite Division of the Puma Tournament against state and national competition. They also captured regional, district and Western Conference titles.
In finishing 24-3-2, the team set a record for wins and tied the record for fewest losses. With high intensity offense, the Cowboys posted 100 goals and 99 assists for a school record in both.
Riding the strength of a tight defensive backfield and quick goalkeepers James Cobb and Jared Swindle, the team set a record in shutouts, with 15.
Swindle, a junior, paced the net-protection corps. He started 23 of the team's 29 games, posting 12.5 shutouts and allowing only 15 goals. His 12.5 shutouts became a school record for the Cowboys.
Cobb, a sophomore, started the remaining six matches, recording 2.5 shutouts and allowing only nine goals.
The offense was aggressive from the front line to the back and guided by a savvy group of midfielders.
Wegerle was the striker. The senior all-American set a school record with 24 goals and added a team high 19 assists. In addition to being selected All-American, his efforts earned him the Florida High School and Gatorade Player of the Year honors.
Junior midfielder Jared Rose and junior forward David Jennings were second in scoring with 14 goals each. Rose added 13 assists and Jennings 12.
Junior Travis Bourguignon and Gerardo Arriola, plus senior Steve Sullivan also aided in the attack as forwards. Sullivan contributed 12 goals plus 11 assists and Bourguignon added 11 goals and three assists.
"Rose was our top returning player and Bourguignon improved and played solid all year," Bush said.
Hank Malouf and Justin Elliott, both seniors, are the backbone of the backline defense and were big factors in Gaither's 15 shutouts.
Also helping the defensive effort all season were juniors Nick McNally and Logan Kesse, plus sophomores David Buckmaster, Joe Roberts, Steve Anderson and Josh Smith.
"Ball control has been a major contribution to the success the Cowboys have experienced for years," Bush said. "Most of that responsibility falls onto the feet of some highly skilled midfielders."
Norris Hartzog, a four-year starter and team captain, is the on-field general in the middle. He is responsible for controlling the ball, moving it up to the open forward or attacking midfielder.
Hartzog scored 12 goals and contributed with 16 assists.
Sharing the midfield duties were seniors Luis Melo and Jorge Miranda, juniors Paul Reynolds and Brenden Crampton, plus freshman Trevor Scott. Crampton scored eight goals with three assists and Reynolds contributed three goals and two assists.