Friday, February 5, 2010

Preps: Panthers' stunning victory highlights region quarterfinals

Plant's first boys region playoff victory since 2003 likely couldn't have come in more dramatic fashion.

The Panthers scored on what was probably their final attack of the game to equalize on a header by John Fernandez before Danny Johnson scored in the 97th minute to give his side a 2-1 victory against Countryside on Thursday night, setting off crazy scene's at Dad's Stadium, writes the St. Petersburg Times' Eduardo A. Encina.

Plant has had a remarkable second season under Coach Chris Carbon, but this victory is, at least on paper, its most impressive to date. Now the Panthers will hit the road to take on a Palm Harbor side that only advanced past Bloomingdale 1-0 in a penalty shootout.

While losing in a shootout is always disappointing, Bloomingdale looks like a team on the rise. The Bulls only lose five seniors from this year's team should the rest of the roster return, and will have the highly talented Tevin Gage returning for his senior season.

Speaking of penalty shootouts, Gaither managed to squeak through against Port Charlotte after goalkeeper John Nardozzi made a save in the first round of sudden-death for a 2-1 victory, David Briggs having scored on the prior kick for what proved to be the game-winner.

The Cowboys will now get a district final rematch with Sickles, which cruised to victory against Punta Gorda Charlotte 3-0. As the Times' John C. Cotey writes, the Gryphons throw-ins, provided predominantly by Ben Wiley on Thursday thanks to Tyler Deming's absence, were crucial to their advancement to the region semifinals for the first time in school history.

There will also be rematches in the other two local 5A semifinals as Newsome routed Brooksville Central 7-1 behind Steven Gonzalez's hat trick, and Plant City edged out Ocala Forest 2-1, although someone should probably mention that the Raiders first loss came in the Wharton Invitational to Hillsborough.

East Lake and Seminole will also face off again, both sides easing through to the region semifinals as the Eagles defeated Pinellas Park 5-0 and the Warhawks blasted Northeast 7-1.

In Class 4A, the "unofficial Pasco County Championship" game, so dubbed by Mitchell coach Oscar Ubillus, is on for Tuesday night as the Mustangs will face Land O' Lakes for a place in the region final. Mitchell defeated Wiregrass Ranch 5-1 on Thursday night, while the Gators defeated Wesley Chapel 3-0.

Jesuit also moved on, but had to survive a late rally by Lakewood Ranch to hold on for a 3-2 victory. The Tigers will need to be better against a Palmetto team that romped past Steinbrenner 5-0 in Tuesday's region semifinal.

Berkeley Prep and Clearwater Central Catholic will face off again for a place in the Class 3A-Region 3 final, the Buccaneers cruising to a 5-0 victory against Frostproof, while the Marauders got two late first half goals to advance past Mulberry 2-0.

Tampa Prep will also face a rematch against Indian Rocks Christian after Anthony Baumann (four assists) and Wes Sever (four goals) allowed the Terrapins to cruise past Bradenton St. Stephen's 6-0. IRC advanced with a 3-0 victory against Out-of-Door Academy thanks to Cody Sitton's hat trick, but Seffner Christian's run came to an end with a 4-0 defeat at Florida Air.

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