FORT MYERS - Perhaps it was the different-colored jerseys. Or the desire for the injured guys to come back and play again. Or maybe it was the spoils associated with earning a first-round bye.
Whatever the case, Saint Stephen's boys soccer team isn't complaining. The Falcons exploded after halftime during the semifinals of Tuesday's Class 2A-District 12 tournament at Fort Myers Evangelical Christian, mounting a relentless surge to beat Out-of-Door Academy 7-0.
The top-seeded Falcons (14-4-3) will face the host Sentinels - the district's defending champions who beat Bradenton Christian during Tuesday's other semifinal - at 7 p.m. Friday night.
They got there thanks to a sudden avalanche. Following a quiet first half, the Falcons, who changed into their white jerseys during halftime, scored seven goals in a span of approximately 28 minutes to pull away from the Thunder.
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"We created a lot of opportunities in the first half. We didn't finish any," Saint Stephen's coach Marc Jones said. "ODA battled hard, as we knew they would. . . . We knew we'd have to play well to come through."
Ryley Delgado opened the scoring less than four minutes into the half en route to netting four goals. The sophomore said the team had some of its injured players in mind - namely seniors Matt O'Carroll and Dale Peterson - who didn't play Tuesday. The victory gives them at least two more chances to take the field, as the Falcons also clinched a berth in the regional playoffs with the victory.
"It's about them," Delgado said of Peterson and O'Carroll. "We stepped up and realized what we have to do."
Jared Bellingar, David Kanoff and Kevin Peterson also scored for the Falcons, who received an first-round bye.
The Thunder (7-7-3) were playing their second game in as many nights, and the fatigue showed as the second half developed. Goalkeeper Frank Byers had 13 saves for ODA, five of which came in the first half, when the Thunder were outshot 12-2.
Fort Myers Evangelical 2,
Bradenton Christian 0
The Panthers' first season of winter soccer ended in the district semifinals at the hands of the second-seeded and defending champion Sentinels.
"We did feel a step short," BCS coach Kel Cunnard said.
BCS (12-5-3), which played its soccer in the fall before the school added football this season, got 18 saves from Preston Kinney.
"Fantastic," Cunnard said of Kinney. "He's kept us in matches so many times this year. A 2-0 score - without him in net, it would have been a lot different."
The Sentinels will try to defend their title Friday against Saint Stephen's.
"It was a good season," Cunnard said.
CLASS 2A-DISTRICT 12
Fort Myers Evangelical 2, Bradenton Christian 0
Saint Stephen's 7, Out-of-Door Academy 0
CLASS 3A-DISTRICT 10
Cardinal Mooney 4,
Fort Myers Gateway Charter 0
CLASS 5A-DISTRICT 12
Port Charlotte, 6 p.m.
Lakewood Ranch vs.
Manatee, 8 p.m.
CLASS 4A-DISTRICT 10
Arcadia DeSoto vs. Palmetto, 6 p.m.