DOVER — A black brace on Newsome High’s Jake Van Der Luit’s ankle hinted to an injury that sidelined the junior for more than two months. His play in his return Wednesday certainly didn’t suggest any limitations as the speedy Van Der Luit scored two of Newsome’s goals in the first 11 minutes as the top-seeded Wolves bested host Strawberry Crest 7-1 in the Class 5A-District 6 semifinals.
“It felt really good to be back out there,” Van Der Luit said. “I had a lot of physical therapy and my therapist said I might get back just in time for districts, so I worked really hard there and it all paid off in the game.”
Newsome (14-5-1) wasn’t left weaponless while Van Der Luit recovered as fellow juniors Eric Lint and Austin Cobb led a potent attack. Wednesday night was no different as Lint added a hat trick and Cobb added two as both eclipsed the 20-goal mark this season.
“Those two really stepped up huge with (Van Der Luit) out for two months,” Wolves coach Allen Ware said. “Eric with 22 goals and Austin with 20 — that’s huge. I can’t complain about that.”
The Wolves will face Durant in Friday’s district final after the Cougars scored twice in the first half and then carried play the rest of the way to top Riverview 3-1 in the early semifinal.
After 35 minutes, no shots on goal had been recorded by either the Cougars or Sharks; however the first half’s final five minutes saw three goals. Luis Bustamante gave Durant the lead in the 36th minute on a one-touch ball from the left.
Riverview quickly answered a minute later as Reed Service took a centering pass into the box and sent a goal to the far post. However, the draw didn’t last long as an own goal proved the difference in the 38th minute when an Adrian Chavez 35-foot free kick went off a Sharks defender. Javier Jimenez added some insurance for Durant (7-4-2) in stoppage time.
5A-7: Steinbrenner to take on East Lake
TAMPA — There were too many close calls for Steinbrenner in the Class 5A-District 7 soccer semifinals Wednesday.
The Warriors downed Palm Harbor, 2-1, but dodged a lot of bullets. Within a span of 15 minutes in the second half, Palm Harbor had four shots clang off a crossbar or the post. For Steinbrenner goalie Christian Knight, it was a little too close for comfort.
“It’s all about the love of the game,’’ Knight said. “You just have to take your luck when you can get it.’’
Steinbrenner held a comfortable 2-0 lead before Palm Harbor began its second-half barrage. The breaks simply went the Warriors’ way.
“There is no way to say that we didn’t have some luck.’’ Knight said.
Steinbrenner coach Chad Ebright said it was about more than luck.
“It’s the way it worked out tonight,’’ Ebright said. “We got off to a good start.’’
Blake Wilson got the Warriors off to a 1-0 lead when he scored off a loose ball near the goal, and Andres Saenz scored on a loose ball to make it 2-0, but after the near-misses, Palm Harbor scored midway through the second half on a score by Jacob Carson on a penalty kick. Palm Harbor continued to press, but Knight held the Hurricanes off.
Steinbrenner will face East Lake, which beat Plant, 2-0, in the early game. Joshua Page scored both goals for the Eagles, who lost only two games all season, one to Steinbrenner.
Page scored his first goal off a feed from Dan Mahler.
Page scored his second goal on a penalty kick.
East Lake and Steinbrenner will meet for the 5A-7 title Friday at Alonso High.
4A-8: Mitchell, Wiregrass Ranch win
TAMPA — Top seeds Mitchell and Wiregrass Ranch advanced to Friday’s Class 4A-District 8 final at Leto.
The Mustangs (20-2-1) defeated Gaither 3-2, getting a pair of goals from Nick Bartkus, another from Chet Kirtley and two assists from Mico Petrovich.
Gaither’s Jonathan Dasilva converted on a bicycle kick with 5:50 to go to make it 3-2, and in the final two minutes, the Cowboys (4-7-4) had a shot deflect off both the crossbar and right post before Mitchell was able to close it out.
“Inches was the difference between us (winning and) still playing,” Mitchell coach Oscar Ubillus said.
Dasilva also assisted on a goal by Jose Perez.
The Bulls (19-1-2) overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit with two goals in a three-minute span by Bryce Wilson. The senior leads the team with 26 goals.
Sickles controlled the first half. Their lone goal came on a 45-yard, high-arching shot by Inti Corsa, and they got great goalkeeping from Ryan Cooper.
The Gryphons (11-5-2) had a late chance to tie with three shots from close range in the final minutes. But Wiregrass keeper Alex Cypriano made two key saves to preserve the lead.
3A-8: Sunlake and Land O’ Lakes advance
NEW PORT RICHEY — A blowout and a close call set the stage for another meeting in this crosstown rivalry.
Sunlake defeated Pasco 6-0 and Land O’ Lakes held on for a 2-1 win over River Ridge, and the two rivals will meet Friday for the third time this season in the Class 3A-District 8 championship.
The Gators (14-6-1) were able to withstand quick strikes by the Royal Knights (13-5-2) and eventually take a 1-0 lead on a header by Glenn Johnson that he put away off a Ryan Wallace free kick. Land O’ Lakes made it 2-0 in the 58th minute on a great strike by Jordan Dollbaum.
“I told our guys that, to make the final, they’d have to play with heart and passion and they did just that,” Gators coach Mark Pearson said.
In the first semifinal, Sunlake was led by two goals from Aaron Aucoin and goals from Cobi Shermo, Austin Goble, Joe Ditroia and Remi Pimm, who notched his Pasco County-leading 54th goal of the season.
Aucoin would get the ball rolling for Sunlake, scoring in the just the fourth minute and the Seahawks (25-1-1) would take a 4-0 lead into halftime by shutting down the Pirates (10-9-1), holding them to just a handful of shots.
Sophomore keeper Danny Hrenko posted his 19th shutout this season, but coach Sam Koleduk was still worried about a semifinal letdown.
3A-9: Jesuit to face Southeast in final
TAMPA — Jesuit put itself in position Wednesday night to win its 25th district soccer title in the past 27 years, and the Tigers did it in resounding fashion, defeating Spoto 8-0 in a Class 3A-District 9 semifinal.
Jesuit (12-4-3) came out on fire, scoring in the first minute on a rocket from the top of the box by Jacob Starnes. The Tigers followed with goals in the eighth minute (a header by Jacob Vila), ninth (Stephen Huetz), 10th (Huetz), 13th (Vila), 27th (Paul Anderson), 59th (Huetz) and 69th (Alejandro Cartaya).
The victory sets up a rematch in Friday night’s district final against Bradenton Southeast, which defeated Robinson 1-0 in the night’s first semifinal on a goal in the 67th minute. Robinson ends 6-10-1.
In the first meeting between Jesuit and Southeast (11-7-2), the Tigers had a pretty tough time before pulling out a 2-1 victory. That game, however, was played more than two months ago.
For Jesuit, Wednesday’s victory marked its ninth shutout on the season.
2A-9: Berkeley, CCC to meet for crown
ST. PETERSBURG — A late goal by Will Sibson helped catapult Berkeley Prep into Friday’s Class 2A-District 9 final with a 1-0 win against St. Petersburg Catholic Wednesday night. Berkeley will face Clearwater Central Catholic, a 1-0 winner in overtime vs. Tampa Prep.
There were many opportunities missed by both clubs in the latter semifinal between the Barons (4-5-2) and Buccaneers (6-10-5), but Sibson’s late goal helped prevent overtime. In the 76th minute, after the ball bounced around in the box, Sibson headed in the game’s lone goal.
In the earlier semifinal, CCC (8-6-4) had a chance to end the game before overtime when Alex Thompson launched a free kick from 20 yards out in the 74th minute, but Terrapins goalkeeper Adam Ghabour made the clutch save.
With 16.1 seconds remaining in the first sudden death overtime, Marauders sophomore Kevin Harris headed in a ball mishandled by Ghabour.
“I felt like I put the team on my back and gave us a for-sure two more games to play and maybe even some more,” Harris said.