PALMETTO -- The Palmetto boys soccer team has no set procedure to determine which Tiger takes a penalty kick.
When senior striker Raul Loera stood over the ball staring at the net in the waning minutes of Wednesday's scoreless game against Southeast, it was clear who Palmetto turns to in the biggest moments.
"Whoever wants to stand up and take the shot, they get to take the shot. It's not a coach's call," first-year Palmetto head coach Mike Meehan said.
Loera coolly flicked the penalty kick inside the right goalpost and past Seminoles goalkeeper Joshua Karg with 2 minutes and 2 seconds showing on the Harllee Stadium clock to give the Tigers a 1-0 victory over a determined Southeast squad.
Said Loera of his strategy, "If you're confident, you'll hit the kick."
Palmetto (5-0-2) earned the penalty kick when Frankie Arroyo's header found its way through the Southeast defense to the goal line, where it was touched for a handball by Seminoles freshman Deonte Stone.
Loera strode to the ball in front of the net and waited there for about five minutes while referees sorted out the infraction and handed the disconsolate Stone a red card.
When play resumed, Loera struck a perfect ball that easily eluded the diving Karg.
"It's the most unfortunate thing that can happen in a game like this," second-year Southeast co-coach Steve Marshall said of the handball. "(But) it wasn't the PK that beat us. It was the missed opportunities. Our motto is we're a team. We win as a team, and we lose as a team."
The Seminoles (8-3) played much of the game down a man after freshman Domino Cortez received a red card with nine minutes to play in the first half.
But Southeast, ranked 12th in the state in Class 3A, outshot Palmetto 12-9 and had several open looks at the net.
"It's a great test for our team, and I think we proved we can play with anyone," Marshall said.
Palmetto goalkeeper Matt Simmonds made five saves, three of which came in rapid succession after Loera's goal, as the Tigers claimed their first shutout of the season. Andy Perez also spent time in goal for Palmetto.
"That's probably the quickest team that we have played so far this year," Meehan said. "Their quickness bothered us, quite frankly. We had trouble getting our offense going, just based on Southeast's tremendous quickness. I was very impressed by how hard both teams played in this game. We kept playing hard and didn't lose heart.
"I'm very proud of our defenders and our goalie. Both goalies did a great job in the net. Matt Simmonds had a terrific reaction save at the 12-, 13-minute mark to keep us competitive."
In the end, it was Loera who provided the game's only offense.
He said he doesn't always take penalty shots. Earlier this season, he encouraged Candido Calvillo to take one because the freshman was going for a hat trick.
Whatever works best for the team, he said.
"To me, we've had a lot of top goal scorers in the past," Loera said. "As long as we win, it doesn't matter to me who scores the goals."