GREEN DEVILS 3 EAGLES 2
By Eric Horchy | Suncoast NewsEAST LAKE - Behind the two-goal effort of Junior Francis, St. Petersburg held on to beat East Lake 3-2 and win a match between two of Class 5A District 8’s top teams.
Published: January 9, 2013
Published: January 9, 2013
Francis saved his most thrilling effort for the very end, timing a run with Sean Covington’s 30-plus-yard lob and flicking a diving header past East Lake keeper Jeffrey Richmond in stoppage time.
"I took a glance at the goalie and he was coming out, so all I knew I really had to do was get a flick to the other side of the goal and it’s over," the sophomore said, adding that it was the most exciting goal he’s ever scored. "The only thing I was worried about was the keeper coming out and getting a hand to it. So I just tried to get it at its highest point and put it in."
The goal came not long after East Lake (10-3-1, 5-1-0) capped off a furious comeback. Down 2-0 at halftime, the Eagles exited the break with a renewed energy.
"For some reason tonight we were just very complacent, especially starting out," said East Lake coach Alex Stenson. "It was a little disappointing. The second half was much better, but they did what we should have done to them."
"Being up 2-0 is the hardest lead to defend in soccer," St. Pete coach Rui Farias said. "When you’re up 1-0, you know you still have to work hard. When you’re up 2-0, in the back of your mind you get lazy a little bit. It’s happened to us twice this year already and we came back and did it again."
The Eagles’ dynamic forward Mathias Ghiena was in on both second-half goals, starting with an assist deep in the St. Pete box. Ghiena slid a pass from right to left that fellow senior Kevin Lindquist buried in the corner.
Ghiena then netted the equalizer only minutes after Taylor Youngblood sent in a diving header that just missed. East Lake’s aggressive attack put them right back into another scoring opportunity and Ghiena finished this time by heading in a rebound.
Youngblood nearly forced a draw during the Eagles’ final-minute surge. A corner kick from the right side found its way to Youngblood’s head, but he whipped it a foot wide of the left post.
St. Pete (9-2-2, 4-1-1) grabbed its early lead within the match’s first five minutes when Covington converted a free kick from about 25 yards out. Francis made it 2-0 Green Devils not long after with a goal assisted by Martin Gaganelov.
St. Pete - 2 - 1 --- 3
East Lake - 0 - 2 --- 2
Although the host Eagles (5-1-0 5A-8) had already sewn up the top district seeding heading into Wednesday night, St. Pete’s victory jostled where the next three teams will be placed entering the Jan. 22-25 tournament.
St. Pete (4-1-1 5A-8) now is locked into the No. 3 seed no matter what, but the second and fourth slots will be determined tomorrow night at Palm Harbor University when the Hurricanes host Sarasota Riverview.
The Green Devils could have possibly dropped to the fourth seed had they lost or tied at East Lake and PHU won or tied tomorrow night.
In league play, Riverview is currently 4-1-0 and PHU is 3-1-1. If the Hurricanes – who beat non-district foe Seminole on the road Wednesday night – take care of Riverview, they will earn the No. 2 seed and drop the Rams to No. 4.
A Riverview win or tie tomorrow at PHU will do the opposite; giving the Rams the second seed and placing the Hurricanes fourth.
If PHU beats Riverview, its 4-1-1 league record will tie St. Pete. PHU and St. Pete drew in the regular season, 2-2. But since that game was played in St. Pete, PHU earns the tie breaker for being on the road.