Suwannee boys soccer hungry after upset win

Published: Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 8, 2010 at 12:20 a.m.

There are moments during a season that define a team and provide a glimpse of possible greater things to come.

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Suwannee's T.J. Vickers competes with Eastside's Yared Armstrong during a match in December at the Jonesville Soccer Complex.

Erica Brough/staff photographer

For the Suwannee boys soccer team its signature moment came on Dec. 3 when the Bulldogs accomplished something that not many area teams have over the years.

Suwannee traveled to Jacksonville and knocked off state power and defending FHSAA Class 3A state champion Bolles, 2-1.

"It was a huge win, Suwannee has never seen a win that big," said Bulldogs goalkeeper Jake Hayes, about the program-changing victory. "We beat the defending state champions, that shows that we can go really deep into the playoffs.

"That definitely by far was the best feeling I have ever had playing soccer."

Just how big of a win was it for Suwannee (11-2-1)?

Bolles is second in the state with 21 straight regional playoff appearances and fourth in the state with 49 overall playoff wins. The Jacksonville school has also reached the state semifinals 14 times, and has gotten there in seven of the last eight seasons. Area teams have a had tough time against Bolles in the regular season and in the postseason. Bolles is 14-3 overall in the playoffs against area clubs, with all three losses coming to P.K. Yonge. They also have three state runner-up finishes to go along with last year's state title.

But none of those numbers mattered as first-year Suwannee coach Archie Cook said that was one of the best games his club has played all year. Freshman Justin Shirah scored in the first half for Suwannee, before Tripp Prevatt scored off of an assist from Austin O'Connor for the 2-0 lead. Robbie Eshelman scored for Bolles in the 71st minute.

"I think that we kind of as a team knew that we had a legit chance against Bolles," senior stopper Marshall Boggus said. "We knew that we were capable of beating them and it was just a matter of going out there and doing it. It wasn't as much as a surprise for the team as it was to everyone else hearing our name."

For the season, Suwannee has already secured the top-seed in the District 5-3A tournament, which it will host in Live Oak in three weeks. O'Connor, a midfielder, has 16 goals and four assists to lead the Bulldogs, who are looking for their first regional-playoff appearance and district title since 2004.

Suwannee's junior twin-brother tandem of Stuart and Jackson Brown have combined for 17 goals and 14 assists, while Prevatt, a fellow midfielder, has chipped in seven goals and five assists. In the back, Boggus and Brandon Kuykendall anchor a Bulldogs defense that has posted five shutouts this season. Hayes has made 48 saves this winter in goal for Suwannee and owns a goal against average of 0.96. The Bulldogs have also outscored their opponents 52-17 this season.

"Obviously, our first goal is to win the district and we want to go to state and we're going to try and win it," Cook said. "We knocked off the defending 3A state champs, if we put our minds to it, we can do it.

"I think a lot of these kids have really taken to heart, the fact that they can play with anyone as long as they put forth the effort and that is the biggest key."

The Bulldogs have stumbled in the district tournament in recent seasons and only have one regional-playoff win in four trips in school history. But if the victory over Bolles is an indicator, this could be the time Suwannee makes a lengthy playoff run and plays for a state championship, which Hayes said is not a far-fetched idea. A re-match of both teams named the Bulldogs could take place and if it does it would be for the Class 3A state title on Feb. 20 in Tampa.

"As a junior, I know this is the year if we're going to do anything in the state playoffs," Stuart Brown said. "We are bonding well as a team right now and we are playing well together."

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