By Official Florida FC
Region 1-6A is one of the toughest in Florida. Four of the top 10 teams in the latest statewide rankings compete in the region.
With such high-caliber teams, in a region that stretched from Gulf Breeze to Ponte Vedra Beach, it placed an additional emphasis on winning district tournaments. Those who didn’t win would either have to travel long distances in the regional playoffs, or meet a worse fate by missing the postseason entirely.
That was the backdrop for Monday’s District 3-6A semifinals at Fleming Island.
Oakleaf upset Fleming Island 2-1 as it seeks to qualify for the FHSAA playoffs for the second straight season.
The hosts were in the statewide top 10 earlier this season, but losses to Tallahassee Chiles – another Region 1-6A opponent – and St. Johns Creekside knocked them out.
Ponte Vedra, last year’s regional champion, appeared set for a postseason berth. However, Nease and Oakleaf likely needed to win the district tournament to feel comfortable about their postseason chances.
Ponte Vedra (11-2-3) beat Nease 3-1 in the opener. The Sharks will play Oakleaf (9-3-1) in Wednesday’s final.
Oakleaf has won six straight matches since consecutive 5-2 losses to Fleming Island and Ponte Vedra in December. The best opponent during that run has been a middling Jacksonville Bolles squad.
Khiende May-Parker scored the opener in the 17th minute. He was assisted by his older brother, Akindele May-Parker.
Oakleaf had opportunities to put the game away in the first half, but missed golden opportunities. One of those was due to a phenomenal penalty kick stop by Fleming Island goalie Peyton French in the 37th minute.
French saved two penalties in the game. He dove to his right both times to deny the Knights.
French’s stellar play – afterward the Oakleaf coaches applauded him and gave him a massive hug for his performance – gave the Golden Eagles enough time to equalize. Matthew Male hit a blistering shot from the inside left in the 49th minute.
Oakleaf piled on the pressure in the second half, Khiende May-Parker drew a second penalty kick in the 62nd minute, but couldn’t beat French.
Finally, in the 68th minute, Evan Bauman’s volley from 25 yards found the top corner.
Oakleaf had its lead. The Knights held on in the final 10 minutes to advance to the district final.
1-6A: Gulf Breeze (17-2-1) vs. Cantonment Tate (10-2-3)
2-6A: Chiles (14-2) vs. Niceville (13-3-3)
3-6A: Ponte Vedra (11-2-3) vs. Oakleaf (9-3-1)
4-6A: Gainesville (13-0-1) vs. Ocala Forest (15-0-6)
Considering either Niceville (13-3-3) or Tallahassee Chiles (14-2) will claim one of the four at-large berths in the region and Fleming Island appears in place to claim another, Nease (9-4-4) will have to wait and hope.
If Oakleaf tops Ponte Vedra in Wednesday’s 3-6A final, Nease’s chances take a significant hit.
Right now, it appears Nease, Gainesville Buchholz (7-4-3) and, possibly, Ocala Forest (15-0-6) are hoping for the final berth in the region.
Regardless, it should make this week’s district finals fun.