After a relatively slow start, the Plant High boys soccer team turned up the heat on St. Petersburg and ran away with a 4-0 victory in Wednesday's Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinals.
The Panthers were led by Luis Zapata, who scored in the 18th, 25th and 60th minutes — all from 15 yards or more — after Plant (14-3-1) had settled into its offense.
"In that first (18 minutes) we were playing to (St. Petersburg's) style of long ball," Plant coach John Feely said. "After that we started possessing the ball more and things started going our way."
For Zapata, it was another outstanding game in a season in which he leads the team in scoring and has 11 assists, Feely said.
"(Zapata) has really stepped up and his play has made a big difference for us," Feely said.
Plant's Seth Rinkevich headed in the final goal off a throw in by Aaron Banks.
5A-2: East Lake eliminates Newsome
Junior forward Joshua Page scored two goals in the final 90 seconds to break a tie and send East Lake to a 3-1 win over Newsome in the 5A-Region 2 quarterfinals.
"At first it was a very slow-paced game," Page said. "In the last few minutes, we knew we had to do something special."
Ben Stevenson had assists on the game's final two goals, but Page had to beat two defenders on his own before slipping it into an empty corner of the net for the winner. Page has 20 goals and 12 assists this season.
With 5 minutes left in the first half, East Lake senior Taylor Youngblood crossed the ball to Mathias Ghiena, who scored from 12 yards out to open the scoring.
The Wolves answered midway through the second half as Tim Main scored off a through ball from senior defender Jack Schlandt.
Ball control and maintaining possession proved to be the key for the Eagles, who took advantage of the windy conditions to launch balls deep into Wolves territory.
"They understand the elements and the field," East Lake coach Alex Stenson said. "If we can control the ball well, we have the players to finish."
4A-2: Big second half propels Steinbrenner
Derek Gebhard and Jason Collister scored twice in the second half to help Steinbrenner defeat Ridge Community 7-1 in the 4A-Region 2 quarterfinals.
Gebhard broke a 1-1 tie 30 seconds after halftime, and the Warriors dominated from there.
Collister scored the next two goals, the first on a header off a corner kick seven minutes into the second half. The other came on an odd-man attack with Logan Siben.
Gebhard added the next goal on a cross crease pass from Enrique Barboto. He finished with two goals and an assist.
The Warriors' six second-half goals — Blake Wilson and Cody Lively also scored during the final 40 minutes — came on 11 shots.
Brett Wilkosz opened the scoring for Steinbrenner before Daniel Robeldo equalized for Ridge Community.
4A-2: Sickles ousted by Lake Region
Sickles coach Carl May said he will shoulder the blame for his team's 5-1 loss to Eagle Lake Lake Region in the 4A-Region 2 quarterfinals.
May said after the Gryphons won the pregame coin toss and decided to give the Thunder the wind in the first half, he might have had a football mentality that cost his team the game.
"I was almost already second guessing myself when I walked back and talked to my assistant coach," May said. "I thought, 'Did I just make a big mistake?' "
Lake Region senior Brent Moore took full advantage of the wind at his back. Moore lofted a long ball in toward Sickles keeper Ryan Cooper early and he tracked it as the wind carried the shot. Cooper grabbed and pinned it to the ground only to hear the referee's whistle call the night's first goal.
Thirty-five minutes later, the wind played a supporting role as the Thunder forward recorded a first-half hat trick to give Lake Region (16-3-3) a four-goal lead at the break and spell the end of Sickles' (9-2-4) season.
With the wind at its back to start the second half, Sickles made a quick response as Carlos Sifontes scored the Gryphons' lone goal after a cross into the box ended up at his feet inside the 6-yard box.
4A-3: Hillsborough falls to Northeast
Northeast coach Thomas Blauvelt didn't mind having a bucket of ice water dumped on his head by his players after the Vikings beat upstart Hillsborough 2-1 in a Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinal.
Playing against a brutal wind, the Vikings trailed 1-0 at halftime after a Hillsborough goal by Mack Rocha. But with the wind in their favor in the second half, the game turned.
Northeast's Bryan Combs tied it at 1 with a goal just before the hour mark, and Stevie Rudderham scored the winner with a low shot with five minutes to play.
"This wind was so dominant in the game," Blauvelt said. "We just had to fight them off and then take it in the second half. … It's tough to play soccer against a wind like that. It turns into such a survival kind of situation."
4A-3: Strawberry Crest beaten by Seminole
Seminole defeated Strawberry Crest 2-1 in the 4A-Region 3 quarterfinals.
After trailing 1-0 for most of the first half, Strawberry Crest senior midfielder Rahul Patel scored on a free kick just before the break to give the Chargers momentum.
The 1-1 tie lasted for most of the second half, until Strawberry Crest lost its starting keeper to injury. While scrambling for the ball, junior Nick Kubecka collided with an opponent, collapsed and broke his wrist. His teammates rushed to his defense and drew a penalty.
Without their starting keeper, Seminole scored on the penalty kick and went on to victory.
"It's a tough way to go down," Strawberry Crest coach Scott Vomacka said.