Another successful season has hit the books for Plant City youth soccer.
This was the 36th year for the Plant City Recreation & Parks Department/Optimist program. A whopping 1,200 or so players took part, ages 4-18, playing a total of 94 games spread across 11 age groups.
If that's too much math, just remember this: Plant City's is the largest youth sports program in the area.
I've been told the inaugural season in 1977 had about one thousand fewer players. Actually, I can confirm. Because I played in that inaugural season, and I even remember my team's name (Lancers). But the loaded roster was my U-12 group, the Metros, a few years after. We averaged eight goals a game, and gave up two all year. I know because I was the goalie.
Just being able to recall that, without a second of thought, is the best example I can give about the memories youth sports creates.
Here are some highlights from the current group of players memories they'll be able to recall when they grow up:
The under-10 boys champion Bobcats had quite the road this season. The team finished in sixth place out of 14 teams during the regular season. In fact, the team won as many games in the tournament (four) as it did all year, in a span of 11 days.
The second-round matchup with the Rowdies went to penalty kicks; the semifinal was a win against first-place Firestorm, and in the finals, the Bobcats beat another surprise team. The Cyclones made it to the May 31 title game, despite finishing 3-4 in the regular season. The team knocked out the Avalanche and the Jaguars, both of whom had only lost one game. Great stuff.
All league games were played at the Otis M. Andrews Sports Complex.
About 40 percent of the players were girls. What a great sign for the future of the sport around here, where the Plant City High program is becoming so regularly strong.
Other tourney champs: Wolves (under-10 girls), Vikings (under-12 boys), Aztec (under-12 girls), Scorpions (under-15 boys), Sonics (under-15 girls) and Netherlands (under-19). Quite the barnburner with the Vikings beating the Clash 3-2; those teams finished 1-2 atop the league.
The undefeated Aztec put up impressive numbers, beating second-place United in the final 2-1 in penalties, scoring 42 goals and giving up seven in 10 games.
Speaking of impressive: The Scorpions went 10-0 and finished with a 63-10 margin on goals.
The under-7 and under-8 groups did not have tournaments, so the regular-season champs claimed the titles. And for the latter group it was a flat-footed tie between the Geese and Robins — or maybe web-footed would be a better way to describe it, considering all of the league's teams were named for birds.
In the under-7 group, the Eagles went 5-0-2, with the Doves finishing a point behind (5-1-1) and the Ospreys coming in third.
No scores, as has been the custom, were kept in the under-5 and under-6 groups, but we must mention the teams anyway, because that's part of the fun. The under-6 age group had 10 squads: Beagles, Bufs, Dalmatians, Dinosaurs, Fleas, Hamsters, Munchkins, Rabbits, Rugrats and Squirrels.
Running around the pitch in the under-5 group this year were eight teams: the Bashfuls, Happys, Sleepys, Sneezys, Gnats, Chipmunks, Guppies and Beetles. Can you say "cute" or what?
Next week, we'll check in on the Little League Tournament of Champions.