Tampa- Desire and heart showed its true colors in Wednesday night’s matchup between Steinbrenner and Palm Harbor University, as physicality stole the show and the Warriors took home a 2-1 victory.
“In all four years of our career, we knew this was the toughest district and this was the toughest game we were ever gonna play. Palm Harbor is a great team and we had to make some adjustments and we played physical and our defense stepped up,” said senior captain Blake Wilson.
Eight yellow cards, one red card, and two ejections contributed to high emotions on the field in the 5A District 7 semi final matchup.
“We just had to play the game and get back on track. We had to be physical but play smart and not make dumb mistakes,” said sophomore Andres Saenz.
With 18 minutes left in the first half, Blake Wilson turned a stolen ball into a crucial first goal.
For another 40 minutes of play however, all spectators saw that night was back and forth track downs on the ball and fouls called against each team. Saenz scored in the second half, giving Steinbrenner a comfortable 2-0 lead with only 22 minutes left. Moments later, the referee sent Austin Labban to the sidelines for the rest of the game after issuing a red card for vulgar language.
Compounding the problem, David McGee was later expelled off the field for unsportsmanlike conduct, causing his team to be two men down.
“Defend, Defend, Defend. That was the mentality. We tried to clear the ball to the corners and play hard” said Head Coach Chad Ebright.
PHU soon struck its first blow when a penalty sent a Hurricane to the line and the ball crossed paths with goalkeeper Christian Knight and made the score 2-1.
The Warriors put up eight shots with Knight saving seven. PHU had 14 shots and only two saves.
“It was an amazing team effort and our back guys really stepped up and covered through balls before it got to me” said Knight. “Getting the next job done, winning that next game, you want to win everything and there is no losing for this team. Win win win win. I know that can come off cocky but that’s the competitor’s mentality.”
The Warriors will be facing East Lake in the district finals Friday night for a chance at their first ever district title.
Evan Abramson/Senior Staff Writer