Soccer season keeps going on strong here in Osceola County.
Four teams – St. Cloud and Harmony’s girls and boys teams – qualified for the regional playoffs this year, and three continue on to the regional semifinals.
On Tuesday, St. Cloud, like in its district tournament championship, played lock-down defense in the second half and took down Plant City, 2-1. And behind three goals from Jenna Butcofski and two more from Reinna Scott, Harmony powered past George Jenkins, 6-2, in Lakeland. It’s the first time in recent memory two county schools have reached the regional semifinals in a year.
Leilani We and Isabelle Salce scored to put the Bulldogs (14-6-3) up 2-0 in the first half, then watched the lead trimmed and his team hold on for dear life. It was white knuckle (or something else) time.
“We got off to a great start,” Coach Shawn Beck said. “I didn’t want to substitute in the second half because we were clicking so well. It got interesting, I picked up a few more grey hairs.”
On Friday, St. Cloud will host Melbourne (13-5-3) in a Bulldogs vs. Bulldogs matchup. Harmony (14-6-1) will travel to District 6A-12 mate Viera (17-1-2), the district champion.
In boys action Wednesday, the Bulldogs won their first regional playoff game since the 1990s (likely 1994, it’s hard to find good references for it) with a 3-0 win over Viera that was a tale of two halves. St. Cloud draws the region’s top seed, George Jenkins (), in Lakeland in Saturday’s regional semifinal.
The Bulldogs (15-5-1) played an incredible brand of “bend-don’t-break” defense in the first half that ended scoreless only because of some incredible plays. Goalie John Craig made back-to-back sprawling saves in the 23rd minute, then Mariano Martinez cleared a ball off the line three minutes later. Martinez, joined by Jason Moreno, Jack Stephen and Ernesto Martinez combined on a phenomenal effort.
“We faced a lot of shots, but we were protecting the fort,” Craig said. “Keeping it scoreless in the first half and not having to play from behind, it’s a real reason why we won.”
Unable to get much going offensively in the first half, St. Cloud broke through 2:30 into the second half, when Robert Miralda sent a pass wide to Devin Prado, who nailed a shot to the lower far corner. Three minutes later it was 2-0 when Miralda collected a free ball right in front of the net and scored.
Later in the half, Craig kept the shutout alive by clearing a corner kick away, and then four minutes later, from beyond midfield, he put a ball on net that Viera turned into an own goal.
“Fate is our friend, and these guys showed the passion and their mental side,” Coach Weylan Craig, coaching in his first playoff game in 11 years at St. Cloud, said. “At the half we talked about winning the second half meant winning the game, and we started passing to the outside because they were only playing three defenders back.”
The news wasn’t all great for county teams. Harmony (12-5-5) ended its season with a 3-1 loss at Melbourne.