Looking ahead to them now, instead of finishing the regular season on a strong note, could spell disaster for momentum headed into the postseason. Also, with MaxPreps computerized rankings setting the seeds for the tournaments for the first time this year, playing well against strong opponents is vital now.
Hence, you get compelling matchups like Wednesday’s tilt between rivals Harmony and St. Cloud at Gannarelli Field.
In front of a spirited crowd despite the chilly night, the teams competed to a 1-1 draw that was played up and down the field, with scoring chances at both ends. Harmony (7-1-4), which won the Orange Belt Conference tournament held early in the season, capitalized on its near the end of the first half, when Cody Huff dribbled through about 20 yards of the Bulldog defense, beat goalie Noah Craig to his right and buried a close-range shot into the corner.
But Craig kept St. Cloud (8-3-1) in the game in the second half until Fabrizio Lucia turned and fired the equalizer, so the annual rivalry game — they play just once in the regular season this year, instead of what’s been a two-game derby in the past — will have no winner this season.
Both teams hit the road for their next games Friday; Harmony is at Gateway at 6 p.m. and St. Cloud travels to play a stern East Ridge squad at 7:30.
Celebration, a Class 5A state semifinalist the last two years, is starting to find that deep playoff form again after having to fill key roles held by graduating seniors last year. The Storm (7-2-2) haven’t given up a goal in their last four outings, including a 2-0 win Wednesday over Hagerty (6-2-3). Nick Romano scored both first-half goals, off assists from Charly Vargas-Bello.
The Storm head to Orlando Tuesday to take on area power Lake Highland Prep (7-3-1) at 7:30. Osceola moved to 6-7-1 with a 2-0 shutout win Tuesday over University and a 6-0 win over Gateway. The Kowboys, who are 6-0-1 at home, host Liberty on Friday at 7 p.m.