BRADENTON -- There were some injuries to key players, and the previous two encounters resulted in draws.
Yet Bradenton Christian head coach Luke Genheimer said his team was confident to get a victory in the boys soccer Class 1A-District 7 quarterfinal held Tuesday at Saint Stephen's Moore Athletic Complex at Turner Fields.
Instead, his Panthers were walloped 6-0 by North Port's Imagine School, which recorded its first victory in program history.
The Sharks (1-10-2) are in their first full varsity season after beginning the program last season, and had some growing pains during this year's regular season.
However, those went away immediately against the Panthers.
Michael Prada, a junior, took on several defenders in the third minute with some nifty dribbling before unleashing a right-footed scorcher inside the 18-yard box to give Imagine a 1-0 lead.
"He's learned how to do a kind of shake off double and triple teams," Imagine
School head coach Ryan Alvarez said. "The first time through, teams don't really know what he is capable of. And then what happens is that second time, they usually put not only their best defender but they will throw at least two more on him. So he's managed to kind of work within small spaces."
The Sharks continued the assault with two more goals before the break, and then doubled the 3-0 halftime cushion just 15 minutes into the second period.
Prada had the last tally, his fourth of the match.
After struggling all season, Imagine's performance Tuesday was the polar opposite. And that was due to Alvarez changing things up during the pregame drills on the expansive field at Saint Stephen's.
"We played at Saint Stephen's earlier in the year, but the guys were saying it's just a different feel," Alvarez said. "Learning the lines, because it's really difficult to see how wide the field really is when you take a first glance at it. So in warmups, I had a drill where I really spread it all the way to the black line. And I told them, 'If you open it up this much, you're going to realize how much space you guys have to play with.'"
The result also meant the first time in the Imagine School's athletic program history that a team advanced in district competition. The No. 5-seeded Sharks' reward, though, is the top seed in the tournament, the host Falcons.
Meanwhile, Bradenton Christian had several chances to get goals but came up empty.
The Panthers had a potential equalizer in the first half that was cleared off the line, while just misfiring wide of the target on three other occasions.
Nonetheless, the future for Genheimer's bunch is bright.
BCS loses four seniors, while a strong crop of seventh graders are set to return to mesh with other returners to form a solid nucleus.
Genheimer said the program plans to field a junior varsity team next winter, too. "So we can get those up-and-coming players to have experience, before they get to the varsity level," he said.