By Official Florida FC
The passangers who remain on the road to DeLand will come into focus on Tuesday night. The FHSAA regional finals will determine who will play for the right to advance to Spec Martin Stadium next month.
Here are three things to consider before Tuesday’s FHSAA boys soccer regional finals.
FALCOLNS FLYING HIGH
St. Augustine Menendez will play for a regional title on Tuesday night.
In the 21 years the school has been open that statement has never been accurate for a major team sport on the campus. That will change when the Falcons boys soccer team hosts Panama City Beach Arnold.
The Falcons (15-2) came from behind twice against Bishop Kenny to advance to the Region 1-4A final. Senior attacker Michael Malota scored his 10th goal of the season in the first overtime to lift the Falcons to a 3-2 win after extra time.
Menendez has won 11 straight games. The Falcons face an opponent that has won 21 straight.
Arnold (22-0-2) has outscored opponents 115-13 this season. The Marlins have scored six or more goals in five straight matches, including a 6-1 win over Alachua Santa Fe in Saturday’s Region 1-4A semifinal.
Arnold relies on set pieces and physicality in the penalty area. The Marlins will have their hands full with a Menendez defense that is littered with physical seniors in the spine of the team.
Niceville won the 2020 state championship with a 25-0-2 record. Not surprisingly, the Eagles didn’t reach the same heights as last year. However, they may need all the goals and confidence that powered the program to its first state championship in Tuesday night’s Region 1-6A final.
Niceville (11-6-1) travels west to face Neptune Beach Fletcher (15-3-2). Niceville beat Fletcher in penalty kicks last season after the two programs were tied after 100 minutes.
Niceville midfielder Logan Harrelson scored a hat trick against the Senators last year. This year, the senior has 13 goals and eight assists in 12 games. Harrelson scored a goal and assisted another in the Eagles’ 3-0 win over Tate in Saturday’s regional final.
No one will have to tell the Beach Rats about No. 17. His penalty kick ended their season.
Fletcher enters the regional final having won eight straight. The Senators started 2-2-1, but have allowed 10 goals in the 15 games since. That run includes victories over St. Johns Bartram Trail, St. Johns Creekside, Mandarin and St. Augustine Menendez — all of whom advanced to the postseason.
What makes Fletcher dangerous is that anyone is liable to put the ball in the back of the net. Senior Will Sylvan leads the team with 10 goals; but, 14 others have scored at least one goal this season. Sylvan scored in Fletcher’s 3-1 road win over Lake Howell in the Region 1-6A semifinals. Reid Cory, who entered the Lake Howell game with four goals this season, scored two against the SilverHawks.
The winner of the Region 1-6A final will either face nine-loss Palmetto Ridge or New Port Richey Mitchell (18-6-1) in Friday’s state semifinal.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO STAY NO.1?
The FHSAA’s decision to revert to allowing only district champions and district runners-up in the the postseason meant there were some stong districts — such as 4-7A, 1-7A and 11-4A — where there were at least three teams with enough quality to make the postseason, but only two qualified.
Heading into the regional final, five of the top 10 teams in the all-classification statewide rankings at the end of the regular season have been eliminated. The No. 1 team in Class 6A, the No. 2 team in Class 5A and the top three teams in Class 7A did not make the regional finals.
The top-ranked teams that did survive and advance to Tuesday’s regional final are not surprising outfits.
Tallahassee Maclay is 51-5-2 over the last three seasons, a run that includes a 14-0-2 record this year. Arnold only lost three seniors that finished 16-5-1 and lost in penalty kicks in the Region 1-4A final. Tampa Catholic used the red mist of losing in last year’s Class 3A state final to fuel them to a 22-2 record. Meanwhile, Tampa Jesuit (15-1-2) is responsible for one of Catholic’s losses this season and are the reigning Class 5A champions.