FLEMING ISLAND – Fleming Island could not overcome two goals by Creekside senior Jacob McLeod or the surgical throw-ins of Colby McCrone as the visiting Knights surprised the Golden Eagles 4-1 in the District 3-6A championship game on Friday, February 7.
Both teams will play again in the region 1-6A quarterfinal on Wed., Feb. 12 with Creekside, third seeded, hosting Fleming Island (13-3-3, 4A region semifinalist last year), sixth seeded. In the opposite bracket, second seed Leon (16-4-3, a 4A region finalist last year) hosting seventh seed Tallahassee Lincoln (11-3-5). The region semifinal is scheduled for Sat., Feb. 15.
Ridgeview High, a third seed in district 4-3A, upended Palatka in their semifinal then survived a 1-1 regulation game against Pedro Menendez before winning on penalty kicks to win the district championship.
Ridgeview coach Paul Tomaro, who has worked through an 8-8-2 regular season record with a series of injures, will host West Florida High (11-8-5, a 3A region quarterfinalist last year) in their region opener on Wed., Feb. 12. On the opposite side of the bracket, top-seed Arnold (14-4-2, a 3A region finalist last year) hosts eighth-seed Yulee (9-5-2, a 2A region quarterfinalist last year).
“Everyone is finally healthy and things are coming together,” said Tomaro. “Max Bennett was in goal for the shootout and made two saves and the last one for the victory. Nick Clark scored the goal to make it 1-1 in regulation play.”
For the Panthers, Liam McDonald, Bryan Ortiz and Jacob Striecher all converted their penalty kicks for the win.
Ridgeview beat Ed White 12-0 in their district opener then beat second seed Baker County 4-1 with goals from Juan Jaramillo, Jacob Striecher, Lorenzo Forlani and Bryan Ortiz.
On Friday at Fleming Island, Creekside (10-4-3), who entered the district tournament as the number three seed, avenged a 3-1 loss to Fleming Island on December 4 by playing aggressively on defense and running their offense with precision.
McLeod scored both of his goals on headers off of set plays. He scored the game-winner with 22:30 remaining, breaking a 1-1 tie off of a free kick from midfield by McCrone. McCrone’s high boot traveled
all the way into the box, then ricocheted off several players to Knights striker Aldin Tahirovic on the left wing. Tahirovic sent the ball sharply back into the box, where McLeod headed it past Golden Eagles goalie Frank Rooney.
Five minutes later, McLeod extended the lead to two goals when, facing away from the goal, he used the back of his head to redirect a throw-in from McCrone from the left sideline. Any time Creekside was awarded possession on the sideline on the offensive end, McCrone gave the Knights a chance to score by heaving the ball all the way into the box.
“It is a corner kick from the sideline,” observed Fleming Island head coach Michael Green. “It is a weapon.”
An evenly played first half featured tight defense by both teams. The Knights had two good scoring chances early, as Nick Campbell hit the cross bar with a shot and Joey Mueller lofted a ball just over the
bar from close range. Fleming Island had a golden opportunity to seize the lead at the 20 minute mark, but Creekside goalie Dean Jamsheedy saved a penalty kick by the Golden Eagles’ Garret Godfrey.
Godfrey did not appear to strike the ball cleanly, allowing Jamsheedy time to lunge to his right and corral it. The Knights broke on top just before halftime. McLeod dribbled down the right side and centered a pass for Campbell. Campbell, seeing himself guarded closely, gave the ball a light tap with his heel, leaving it for the onrushing Mueller, who drilled a shot high and to the left side of the goal, putting Creekside ahead 1:55 before halftime.
“We are a huge momentum team,” said Creekside coach Cameron Crandall. “That first goal put a charge into them, and let them know that the plan was working.”
Creekside’s 1-0 lead held for the first fifteen minutes of the second half, when Godfrey evened the score
with a blast from the left side. The senior won control of the ball from three Knights defenders at the
top of the box, absorbed contact as he dribbled closer to the goal, and, with Jamsheedy diving towards
him, lofted a left-footer that grazed the underside of the crossbar and dropped into the goal.
Godfrey’s tally was the first goal that Creekside had allowed since January 23 at Mandarin, a span of
three and a half games, bringing the Golden Eagles and their home crowd to life.
The Knights seized the lead back three minutes later on McLeod’s header, and kept relentless pressure
on the hosts for the rest of the game.
McCrone scored the final goal on a header assisted by Mueller in the seventy-fifth minute.
“It boiled down to our defense on the throw-ins and the long kicks,” said Green. “We were not jumping
with them, not marking on the sets.”
Fleming Island lost senior striker Nathan Testa to a lower leg injury with 31:55 remaining. Rooney had
four saves for the Golden Eagles, who fall to 13-3-3.
“A lot of times it is not such a bad thing to lose,” said Green. “If you go undefeated, and are never
behind, you don’t learn how to respond. I believe we will play well Wednesday.”
Creekside improves to 10-4-3.