BRADENTON -- It was cold and rainy at Moore Athletic Complex at Turner Fields, enough to arm the Saint Stephen's boys soccer team with a number of reasons to make excuses for a sluggish start.
Rather than make excuses, the Falcons chose to make Thursday's Class 1A-Region 2 quarterfinal tough on Fort Myers Canterbury.
Powered by an early scoring barrage, Saint Stephen's cruised to a 5-1 victory to advance to Tuesday's regional semifinal against either Fort Myers Evangelical Christian or Sarasota Christian.
The Evangelical Christian/Sarasota Christian game was postponed Thursday.
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The Falcons (12-1-1) opened a 2-0 lead six minutes after kickoff, beginning when Jeremy Jackman scored off a perfect cross from Jorge Zavala.
Zavala took matters into his own hands a minute later, dribbling through a number of Cougars defenders before burying an attempt in the back left corner of the net.
"No matter what the weather's like, we just want to play Saint Stephen's soccer," said Jackman, a senior forward. "And coach always tells us to have a fast start
to the game and put pressure on the other team, and that's exactly what we did (Thursday)."
A pair of goals from Matthew Jones gave the Falcons a 4-0 lead at the half, and Alex Virgilio completed the scoring during the game's 71st minute.
Zavala finished with two assists, Virgilio assisted on Jones' first goal, and Jones returned the favor by assisting on Virgilio's goal.
"It's a big game; it's a regional quarterfinal, and I don't think the boys needed to be motivated," Falcons coach Marc Jones said. "Playing in a regional quarterfinal speaks for itself. ... Our game plan was to take it to them right from the whistle. We played with intensity, moved the ball quickly, and (Canterbury) didn't have an answer at the start of the game."
Zavala came out early in the second half after tweaking a hamstring, but Marc Jones said it was a precautionary move.
"We could have put him back in if we needed to," Jones said.
Regardless who wins the other quarterfinal, the Falcons will be home Tuesday as they attempt to reach Friday's Region 2 championship match.
"Our all guys are healthy right now. It's been up and down the whole year with injuries," Jackman said. "But I think we're finally 100 percent, and regional semis just take it one game at a time."