EAGLES 3 GREEN DEVILS 2
By Eric Horchy | Suncoast NewsEAST LAKE - It seemed only a matter of time before Josh Page found his way into the box score.
Published: January 26, 2013
Published: January 26, 2013
Whether striking on his own or feeding teammates, East Lake and its top scoring threat were just a hair off for nearly the entire first half.
Knotted at 1-all with St. Petersburg during Friday night’s Class 5A District 8 championship match, Page found his opening 22 minutes into the second half.
Senior Nicholas Vetricek initiated the opportunity by making a 50-yard run down the right sideline. Seeing the play unfold, Vetricek rolled a perfectly placed cross through the six-yard box to the far post that Page slid into to put away.
"When he took that ball I just called back post and it was like a connection right there," Page said. "He played it back across and I just put my whole body into it to try and get the ball in."
The goal gave East Lake its first lead of the night after St. Pete opened the match's scoring in the 27th minute. Reminiscent of a goal last night that helped beat Palm Harbor University – and involving the same two Green Devils players – Sean Covington drilled a line-drive free kick on net and teammate Jeffrey Holecek darted across the penalty area to re-direct the shot in.
"With Sean it’s just unbelievable what they can do," East Lake coach Alex Stenson said of St. Pete’s dynamic offensive weapon. "It’s just scary sometimes. He’s a powerhouse. We had to plan to deal with him. We tried to not give away too many free kicks. They scored from one and it can cause so many problems."
The Eagles managed to even the score with less than two minutes left before heading into halftime. From the right side of the St. Pete penalty area, Max Guy got a clean boot on a rebound to pound home the equalizer.
As opportunities began to dwindle early in the second half, East Lake, Page and Vetricek finally capitalized in the 62nd minute.
But the Eagles weren’t done just yet. Building on the momentum of its first lead and behind a supportive home crowd, East Lake netted the eventually game-winner less than nine minutes later.
Page got in on the action again, this time sending a cross to Steven Wankat near the top of the St. Pete 18. Wankat worked clear of a defender to get a clean look and took care of the rest.
"Me and Steven knew," Page said of the teammates’ feel for each other on the field. "I saw him make that run and I played it over the top and he just had an incredible finish."
The insurance goal proved crucial as St. Pete mounted a frenzied final push. East Lake avoided succumbing to Covington’s powerful leg on a free kick from 20 yards away in the 75th minute, but the UCLA-bound senior created his team’s second goal about four minutes later.
With East Lake anticipating Covington to send a corner kick near the net, he went to the top of the 18 and a wide-open Jake Moore, instead. Moore successfully finished the possession, going low and left to beat East Lake keeper Sean Caulfield.
Prior to allowing the goal, Caulfield, who was inserted at halftime to relieve starter Jeffrey Richmond, thwarted an earlier St. Pete opportunity by leaping to punch away a high shot on frame from Holecek.
"He’s very, very quick and he’s only a sophomore," Stenson said of Caulfield. "We are blessed with some terrific keepers here. The switch was planned before the game. They’re both very good and I have complete faith in them."
By the time the Green Devils did cut into East Lake’s lead, though, the clock was no longer on their side. The Eagles successfully ran out the remaining seconds for its third district title in four years.
"I'm proud of my boys," Stenson said. "They really, really dug in and worked hard."
Adding impressiveness to Page and Wankat’s connection in the 70th minute was that it came while East Lake was playing a man down. The Eagles were dealt a blow during the 64th minute when junior Alex Carbonelli was hit with a red card and ejected from the game. Per Florida High School Athletic Association rules, East Lake will likely be without Carbonelli when regional play begins next week.
Although Friday night’s officiating crew allowed numerous instances of contact slide, referees were not shy with pulling cards. St. Pete drew two yellows while East Lake garnered Carbonelli’s red and another yellow.
East Lake will now host Wednesday’s region quarterfinal against the District 5A-7 runner-up. That league’s title match is Saturday between Plant and Newsome. St. Pete will have to travel to the winner of that contest.
The Eagles’ win also added to what’s already been an extremely successful year for East Lake High soccer. The girls team won its district title last week, beat Newsome on Wednesday in the 5A region quarterfinals and take on Palm Harbor University tomorrow night at 7 in the region semifinals.
This may be the first time in school history that both the boys and girls East Lake soccer teams earned district championships in the same season. Detailed records from the FHSAA website go back to the 2000-01 school year and the combined feat was never accomplished in that time period. The only other year both genders advanced to the postseason prior to 2000-01 was in 1997-98, but available records do not specify if either won a district championship or advanced as a runner-up.
St. Pete - 1 - 1 --- 2
East Lake - 1 - 2 --- 3