SANFORD, FL— Overcoming a rare 1-0 deficit at halftime, the Fleming Island High boys soccer team got a headball goal from senior forward Cameron McCurry with 6:47 left in a second overtime period to win 2-1 over Seminole High School and take the FHSAA class 4A state title Saturday afternoon at the University of South Florida. The title is the first for the Fleming Island team who fell last year in the state semifinals. Fleming Island finishes at 25-1-0. Seminole, the 2010 Class 5A runnerup, finished at 19-4-2.
“We talked very little on the way down, but the feeling was that nothing less than a win would be acceptable,” said McCurry, who is headed to Villanova University on a football scholarship. “Coach Pontore just kind of reminded us in his own way that we were down 1-0 in the state championship and that we needed to get it done.”
For Pontore, the grittiness of his team to overcome a 1-0 halftime score as well as more shots on goal than any game this season was a credit to the team’s determination.
“The first half was a little adjustment because of the wider team,” said Pontore. “Our boys kept on going hard. The cramping during the game was critical. I asked ‘Who wants a sub?’ and no hands went up.”
In the first half, Fleming Island seemed to be neutralized by the speed of Seminole on the 80 yard wide field.
“We seemed to be just a step or two behind and mainly because of the field width,” said Pontore. “In the second half, I told them to adjust their runs to be three or four steps ahead of normal and we started to get the momentum.”
Seminole scored with 3:58 left in the half on a penalty kick about 30 yards in front of goalie Zack Dryden who stretched but could not get to the well-placed upper corner shot.
“I saw it and dove, but it was a great shot,” said Dryden. “I got a hand on it, but not enough to stop it. They were fast and the shots were coming all throughout the first half. My defenders up front were cutting their angles down so many of the shots I could see well ahead of them getting to me.”
Senior Tanner Hall, who switched from an up front offensive threat last year for Pontore, uptook the chores of hovering in front of Dryden all season and helped create 17 shutouts for the Golden Eagles.
“Of course, we wanted a shutout here, but they were good,” said Hall. “I don’t regret it at all that I was asked to play defense. We win and that’s what matters.”
In the second half, Golden Eagle fans were delighted to see that Pontore’s advice over the break was making things happen Fleming Island style.
With nine minutes left in the half, Fleming Island went on a string of 10 shots on goal with the Golden Eagle shooters; mainly Chris Cooksey, Brandon Behr and McCurry knocking on the door, but just missing time and time again until Behr followed an Austin Bartel shot that caromed off the crossbar and shoved it past the fallen goalie with 10:25 to go to tie the game.
“We tell them all the time to follow the shots,” said Pontore. “Behr did it and the ball fell right in front of him.”
In the first overtime, Fleming Island started taking advantage of leg cramps by the Seminole players as the 80 degree heat and humidity and the unrelenting pace was taken its toll on both sides.
“We just kept fighting,” said McCurry. “We knew they were getting tired, but so were we and we kept pressing. We were not going home losing because we were tired.”
Fleming Island shot three times on goal in the first overtime while playing most of the stanza in Seminole’s side of the field.
In the second overtime, Fleming Island applied more pressure in front of the goal and still came up short four times with the ball bouncing around for what seemed like minutes, but to no avail.
At one point, McCurry and Seminole goalie Jacob King came up swinging at each other.
“He was aggressive and he kept stepping on me when I fell,” said McCurry.
At seven minutes to go, King came up grabbing his hamstring with a cramp.
With 6:47 to go, Bartel lofted a soft cross toward the front where McCurry had positioned himself once again in front of King only this time, McCurry won the battle.
“When I landed, my leg cramped so bad I didn’t know how the ball went,” said McCurry. “When I got up to celebrate, it really stuck me and I fell. That’s when the team jumped on top of me and I knew the ball went in.”