Saint Stephen's flies into region final

jlembo@bradenton.comFebruary 5, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Regardless of the score, Tuesday's Class 1A-Region 2 boys soccer semifinal was going to be the final game at home for Saint Stephen's.

That's how the bracket worked out. And Jeremy Jackman and the other Falcons seniors couldn't do anything about it.

Instead, they made sure it wasn't the final game they played for Saint Stephen's.

Powered by a first-half barrage, the Falcons knocked off Fort Myers Canterbury 3-1 to advance to Friday's Region 2 final at Tampa Carrollwood.

It wasn't easy -- the visiting Sentinels scored during the game's fourth minute on Hunter Fox's header off Grayson Wilkes' corner kick and were quicker and more aggressive than the Falcons during the opening minutes.

That's when Jackman stepped in. He netted the equalizer with 24 minutes remaining in the first half when his free kick from the 15-yard line glanced off the fingertips of a leaping Kyle Beauvois, the Sentinels' goalie.

"It was supposed to be a top right corner shot, but I guess I had a lot of power behind it," Jackman said. "Just one of those balls that's just hard to handle, and I got the lucky bounce on it."

Roughly 12 minutes later, Jackman's attempt from 15 yards out glanced off a player and ricocheted off the crossbar but stayed in bounds for freshman Jonathan Boyd, whose header beat Beauvois to the back of the net.

And four minutes after that, Jackman fed eighth-grader Benjamin Whorf, who scored from the 20.

Three goals in 16 minutes. Jackman scored one and assisted on the other two.

"I think Jeremy was determined that this wouldn't be his last game here at Saint Stephen's," said Falcons coach Marc Jones, whose team improved to 13-1-1. "Phenomenal. He scored a great goal in the first half and basically carried the team on his back in that first half when we were up against it."

Jackman wasn't the only one to help further the Falcons' season - senior goalie J.J. Byrnes had 10 saves and classmate Matthew Jones twice knocked a shot away that was headed toward an open net.

"Matthew Jones, in the second half, we moved him from the midfield back to our defense. He was like a rock in there," Marc Jones said. "J.J. Byrnes, outstanding in goal...Those three seniors were just amazing.

"But I just want to comment on all the players - they were just superb, the effort and the intensity they brought to the game."

Standing between the Falcons and an eighth trip to the final four is Carrollwood Day, which beat St. Petersburg Shorecest on Tuesday on penalty kicks.

"It's so different when you make it. It's just the next level," said Jackman, a member of a final four Falcons team when he was a freshman. "It's an unbelievable achievement to get there, but our goal is to win state this year."

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