TAMPA – Sickles took an early lead, but in the end were overwhelmed by ESPN Rise No.6 New Orleans Jesuit attack led by Steven Cabos, who had a hat trick, that handed the Gryphons their first loss of the season 5-1 in the quarterfinals of the High School Soccer Classic at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Tuesday afternoon.
Sickles had an early chance when Boris Simunovic beat the Blue Jays' offside trap, but with the goalkeeper off his line, Simeunovic’s looping header went over the crossbar. The Blue Jays had their own chance to take the lead when Cabos’ free kick rang the crossbar from 20 yards.
The Gryphons then took the lead in the 19th minute, an unlucky deflection on a clearing header by the Blue Jays falling to Eric Krukar, who shot in from close range. The Gryphons appeared in good shape to hold the lead until halftime, but in the 35th minute, a brilliant through-ball and chipped finish by Bradley James pulled New Orleans Jesuit back on level terms.
The Blue Jays then took the lead five minutes into the second half, an excellent volley by Cabos from outside the penalty area giving Sickles goalkeeper Brandon Stout no chance. A Gryphons defensive breakdown 10 minutes later then allowed Cabos to steal possession, and he released Jordan Schwartz into the left channel for a deft finish, chipping the ball into the net over the advancing Stout.
At that point, the Gryphons knew they had to go for broke, and pushed center back Gil Davies forward. The gamble didn’t pay off, unfortunately, as Cabos scored twice on counter-attacks three minutes apart to put the game away for the Hornets.
“It’s one of those things as a coach you have to gamble, move your players up,” Sickles coach Tony Calvo said. “It’s a tournament, you have to try and move your players up, so I did, after that third goal I had to try and move them up and see what was going to happen.”
Blue Jays coach Hubie Collins said he had told Cabos to be aware that there could be counter-attacking opportunities as his side switched to a more defensive 4-5-1 formation after going up 3-1, and was full of praise for his striker.
“Steven’s probably one of the more special talents I’ve had the chance to come across in my coaching career,” Collins said. “His technical ability is probably second-to-none in the players I’ve coached in my time in Louisiana. He’s been fantastic.”
Calvo said he was now eager to see how his side would respond to their first loss, with important district games against Gaither and King scheduled for early in the new year.
“I wanted to see how we would act when we lost,” Calvo said. “I think that there’s enough leadership on this team to rebound and continue.”