By Official Florida FC

Nease and Creekside high schools may play in one of Florida’s wealthiest counties. Nease boys soccer coach Fred Hallett is well aware of the fact that St. Johns County may be wealthy, but not everyone who resides there comes from means.

Hallett partnered with Soaring High, a St. Johns County charity to provides assistance to families that live in Nocatee.

During Monday’s match against Creekside, the Panthers and Knights combined to collect blankets, stuffed animals and money for those in Nocatee and throughout St. Johns County who are less fortunate.

Fittingly, the two local rivals dubbed their contest the Holiday Cup. Nease wore their green kits, Creekside was in its red and black kit and the two teams looked like a Christmas tree on the pitch.

Hallett’s initial goal was to receive 75 blankets and 75 stuffed animals. The holidays induced generosity from Northeast Florida businesses, parents and other soccer programs. After Creekside’s 4-1 win, Hallett reported the teams combined to receive 150 blankets, 110 stuffed animals and raised nearly $3,000.

Bobbi Jo White, a manager at a Northeast Florida Wal-Mart, worked to provide organizers with 75 $25 gift cards. First Coast Mortgage Funding chipped in with a $500 donation. Jason Cooley, the longtime coach at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville, worked with his parents to donate blankets.

“I feel because we are put in charge of kids, we are not just teaching them soccer, we are teaching them life things,” Hallett said afterward. “There is no better way to show kids, then to do it.”

Crandall agreed that people poured into both him and Hallett when they were varsity soccer players and it’s now their turn to do the same for current athletes.

“Thinking of someone other than yourself is good,” Crandall said. “Teenage boys need that. We have two phenomenal sets of parents who are really into this stuff. We will do this in the future and do as much as we can, where we can.”

Knights win Holiday Cup

As for the game itself, Nease (3-8-3) controlled possession, but Creekside clearly conjured the better chances.

Creekside has been deadly on throw-in set pieces for years and this year is no different. The Knights took a 2-0 lead at halftime – despite playing against a howling wind – because they won the organized chaos in the penalty box following long throw-ins from senior Zach Bender.

In the 23rd minute Evan Bohms rose to head home the opener. Then, in the 39th Scott Ursem was left unmarked at the back post following another throw-in. Ursem smashed home from close range to give Creekside a 2-0 lead.

Joey Mueller scored two second half goals to give the Knights (6-1-1) some cushion in the contest. Nease’s Ryan Chacon scored in the 61st minute to cut the Panthers’ deficit to 3-1. Mueller ended the contest 10 minutes later.

Nease goalie Evan Miriello made 11 saves on the night, including three fine stops in a four-minute period early in the second half to keep the game close.

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