The Warriors earned the district title Friday night after a 2-1 victory over East Lake with the help of a crucial, yet risky, hand ball and a familiar challenge known all to well.
“There is no other feeling like this, this is the reason you play sports” said senior captain Blake Wilson. “This was a huge team effort and it was huge for our school”.
Unlike Steinbrenner’s last game, the match was fast paced due to the lack of fouls. In a game where senior offensive weapon Austin Labban was inactive due to his red card ejection in the semifinals, the Warriors needed to find another spark against a game East Lake side.
“Our main focus was to keep number 10 (Joshua Page), under control and to get past their phenomenal goalie and their great defense” said head coach Chad Ebright.
After trailing 1-0 to East Lake for thirteen minutes, and with only a minute left of the first half, sophomore Andres Saenz scored his second goal in two games. The assist came from senior David McGee who was ejected from the semifinals with two yellow cards.
Perhaps the biggest moment of the game happened with 11 minutes left, when senior defensemen Zachary Yarish used his left hand to stop a shot from East Lake headed into the back of the net. The infraction resulted in a blue card, ejecting Yarish from the game and not allowing a replacement, but unlike a red card, he could not be suspended. The resulting Eagles penalty kick was sent off the left post and out of bounds.
“We were down a man for the last 20 minutes of the second half and all through over-time, we focused on keeping the ball under control, away from them, and getting some balls sent through” said Ebright.
“It was just the reaction I had to keep the team going and win the game. I just wanted Christian (Knight) to save it so we could get a chance to win the game and the defense played tight and solid. I believe it was the right move and would do it over again if the opportunity presented itself” said Yarish.
With the Warriors a man down, regulation ended, and the game entered golden goal mode, an overtime play where the first goal wins the match. With 1:37 left of the first half of overtime, Wilson sent a ball from 35 yards out straight into the top left corner of the net, giving Steinbrenner its first ever district title.
“The turning point in this game was the PK (penalty kick) they missed and once that happened we knew we were gonna win. We stuck it out and it was a hard win and I’m really proud of our guys” said Wilson.
The Warriors will go on to face St. Petersburg at home in the first round of regional’s on Thursday night.
Evan Abramson / Senior Staff Writer