DISTRICT 5-3A BOYS SOCCER

Suwannee blanks Santa Fe for 2nd straight title


Published: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 11:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 11:53 p.m.

NEWBERRY — Although Suwannee cruised through its District 5-3A schedule during the regular season unscratched, all that didn't matter when it played Friday night in the district tournament final against Santa Fe.

And early on, the favored Bulldogs seemed a little nervous.

"They had to settle down and get their groove on," said first-year coach B.J. Shirah.

Mission accomplished.

Senior midfielder Stuart Brown scored two goals and his twin brother Jackson Brown had a goal and two assists as Suwannee blanked the Raiders, 4-0, to capture its second straight District 5-3A title.

The Bulldogs will host Ocala Trinity Catholic, the District 6 runner-up, while Santa Fe will travel to District 6 champion Crystal River. Both games are Thursday at 7 p.m. Crystal River defeated Trinity Catholic 2-0 on Friday in Mount Dora.

This was the third time Suwannee (17-4-2) faced Santa Fe this season, and for the third time the Bulldogs posted a shutout.

"They are a very good team, very well coached," said Raiders first-year coach Gizmo Cifuentes. "They were better than us. We tried to run with them at the beginning, but we weren't able to. When you make those mistakes it comes back to haunt you."

Suwannee was clearly the more aggressor offensively and had 22 shots at goal. The Raiders (14-9-3), who fell 4-0 and 1-0 during the regular season to the Bulldogs, had eight shots at goal. After several scoring threats and close calls, the Bulldogs finally got a shot past Santa Fe goalkeeper Luke Johnson when Stuart Brown kicked in his first goal in the 32th minute.

It wasn't too long that Suwannee doubled its lead when Justin Shirah, the coach's son, footed a shot from the left side of the goal on an assist from Jackson Brown at the 39th minute for a 2-0 advantage. The sophomore also had an assist in the first half.

Jackson Brown had a goal (66th minute) and an assist on his brother's second goal of the night at the 77th minute. Bulldogs senior goalkeeper Jared Hendry posted his seventh straight district shutout on the season.

"Stuart had a very good night for us," B.J. Shirah said. "Stuart is a player that has come a long way since the beginning of the season. He is really rallying the team and bringing them together. He's very fast and puts a lot of pressure on the defense. And that creates opportunities for other players to make plays as well."

Last year the Bulldogs lost at home in double overtime to Crystal River (2-1) in the regional quarterfinal. Suwannee's coach likes his team's chances going into this year's playoff run.

"These kids play as a team," he said. "There is no selfishness there. As long as we continue to play with that attitude, everybody on this team is a threat."

Contact Larry Savage at (352) 374-5050 or larry.savage@gvillesun.com

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