After a year of early exits during the region tournament, three teams give the area a chance for a postseason run Thursday. Lakewood Ranch, perhaps the top team in Manatee County, will host Tampa Plant; unbeaten Out-of-Door Academy is set to host Naples First Baptist Academy; and Saint Stephen’s is traveling down to Fort Myers to face Evangelical Christian.
All three games kick off at 7 p.m.
The Falcons (11-6) are in the toughest spot with a road trip to face the Class 1A-District 8 champion in the Class 1A-Region 2 quarterfinals. Out-of-Door (17-0) is on the other half of the bracket in the region quarterfinals and is perhaps the best suited local team to make a state-championship run. MaxPreps.com’s computer rankings pegs the Thunder as the 80th-best team in the state, behind only Orange Park St. Johns Country Day and Miami Country Day in Class 1A. ODA wouldn’t have to meet either of those teams until the 1A semifinals when it would meet St. Johns Country Day, ranked as the No. 1 team in the state by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
The only public school team with a chance is the Mustangs, who get a tough draw with Plant in the Class 5A-Region 2 quarterfinals. Even if Lakewood Ranch (16-2-2) knocks off the Panthers, the Mustangs will likely be stuck facing Palm Harbor University, ranked as the No. 7 team in the state by TopDrawerSoccer.