TAMPA – After seeing Orangewood Christian grab victory late on Saturday afternoon, the potential for Countryside to reach the knock-out stages of the High School Soccer Classic appeared dim.
But a 3-1 win by Gulf Breeze against Orangewood opened the door for the Cougars, and a pair of second half strikes by Max Seijo allowed them to walk right through, a 3-1 win moving Countryside into the tournament quarterfinals on goal difference and a game against Palm Harbor on Tuesday at noon.
“The guys fought really hard,” assistant coach Colby Beckman said. Beckman and the remaining Countryside assistants were present in place of head coach Dave Sica, who was ejected from Friday night’s regular season game against East Lake. “Max has been a great player. Up top, he holds the ball up very well, and some of the finishing has been where he has struggled lately, but he showed the type of player he is today.”
The Cougars, who entered the game knowing they needed a two-goal victory to advance, got off to a great start as a counter-attack from a Gulf Breeze corner was finished off by Nino Hadzialic. The Cougars then added a second goal through Seijo, who finished well from inside the penalty area.
Gulf Breeze then pushed forward, knowing just a goal would send it through, and not Countryside, and the Dolphins got their goal shortly after the second half water break. But Seijo added his second with seven minutes to go, finishing a cross by Derya Ekren well to restore the two-goal lead the Cougars needed.
The Cougars will face Pinellas rival Palm Harbor in the quarterfinals, the Hurricanes getting goals from Robby Mattei and Ben Sweat to defeat Clearwater Central Catholic 2-0. Beckman said he was looking forward to taking on a local rival for a place in the semifinals.
“Palm Harbor is nothing new to us,” Beckman said. “We always get up to play those guys, they’ve been a rival since I played here in the early 2000’s. Their coach Alex Delgado is a great friend, and we always enjoy playing Palm Harbor.”
Land O’ Lakes joined the Cougars and Hurricanes in the quarterfinals with an impressive 5-0 victory against Sarasota. Tim Falcon, Nate Dalton, Justin Lyles, Andy Garcia and Evan Reidy all got their names on the scoresheet for the Gators, who will play Orlando Bishop Moore in the quarterfinals.
“We got a lot of people in, got some people some extra playing time and got some rest for the starters,” Gators coach Mark Pearson said. “It was a good team win, we didn’t let down at all, did very well, I was very pleased.”
Orlando Bishop Moore advanced at the expense of Tampa Prep, handing the Terrapins their first loss of the season as goals by Connor Keymont and Claude Daigler gave the Hornets victory. Zack Hebert pulled a goal back with around 20 minutes to go for the Terrapins, but while Jake Peterson and Twain Glaser hit the woodwork late in the first and second half respectively, Terps coach Doug Smith thought the Hornets deserved their win.
“It’s tough to play two games in one day, but we got outworked, particularly in the first half,” Smith said. “We were getting beaten to every ball, every second ball, we were losing all the tackles, and frankly that set the tone for the game. Our effort in the second half was good, and we did do a better job, but it was almost too late by that time to remedy some of the stuff that had happened in the first half.”
Tampa Prep had earlier defeated Gaither in a shootout to eliminate the Cowboys after a goal by Travis Simmons in the 74th minute had given the Terrapins a 2-2 tie in regulation. A victory against the Hornets would have sent the Terps through, but they were unable to find a way to win.
Mitchell came close to joining Pasco county counterpart Land O’ Lakes in the quarterfinals, but lost an early two-goal lead before falling in a penalty shootout to Orlando Dr. Phillips 5-3 after the game ended in a 2-2 tie. With both the Mustangs and Panthers having defeated Jacksonville Stanton Prep, the two teams entered the game tied with three points apiece.
David Vasquez and Max Rockwell had goals within the first six minutes for the Mustangs, but the Panthers rallied through Shawn Moffitt and Devin Boshears to send the game to a shootout. Mustangs coach Oscar Ubillus said he thought his side let down after gaining such a quick two-goal lead.
“Definitely there was,” Ubillus said. “I told them at halftime that might have been the worst thing that could have happened because then they were forced to come out. They got that first goal,not really earned because out ‘keeper made a mistake, and then beat us on a run for the second goal, but they really outplayed us for the rest of the first half.”
Jesuit was eliminated before it took the field on Monday night, New Orleans Jesuit having already won the group with a shootout win against Fort Myers Bishop Verot, but the Tigers did defeat Verot’s shutout streak, earning a 2-0 win in the process. Berkeley Prep had a chance to advance, but dropped an early lead against Melbourne to send the Bulldogs into the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win. The Buccaneers managed the same feat against Seminole, holding a 1-0 lead at the break before falling 2-1.
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