High School Sports

Martinez saves Palmetto's season

PALMETTO - For one second, Palmetto's net was unguarded.

Then came Palmetto's Jose Martinez, darting from his position at stopper, then flying with his right leg through the rain-spiced air to swat away a sure goal with his shin protector.

Two minutes later, the Tigers claimed their 1-0 win over Arcadia DeSoto in the Class 4A-District 10 boys soccer semifinal and advanced to Friday's 7 p.m. championship against Sebring.

In the process, Palmetto (14-3-6) also qualified for regionals.

"I saw Adam (Danziger) come out of the goal and I just started running back," Martinez said. "I saw the ball coming and I kicked it just in time. I just thanked God I got it out of there."

That was one of two legitimate scoring opportunities for Arcadia DeSoto (7-8-4).

The other came with 25 minutes left and, once again, Danziger had to abandon his net to challenge an attacker.

And once again, the net was open. Beto Vargas simply missed it. The ball scooted a foot to the right of the post.

Before a steady rain spoiled the field and caused six players to remain on the drenched grass with injuries, Palmetto scored.

Caleb Green's goal came three minutes in. The play was called "Benicio." Off a corner kick, Bobby Stephenson sent a low, ground ball toward the goal's mouth. As scripted, the ball went through the legs of Benicio Lara. The next part was unscripted. The ball glanced off the foot of an Arcadia DeSoto defender and to Green, who scooped the ball over a cleat for the goal.

Palmetto took the 1-0 lead and held it during the final 88 minutes.

"It was definitely better that we scored early," Green said. "We had plenty of chances after that, but we couldn't find the goal."

Maybe it was because, as Green put it, "We'd look up in the air and rain would get in our eyes and we couldn't see anything."

Or because passes that normally would take a crisp bounce would simply skip.

"It's really a mental game in those bad conditions," Palmetto coach Dustin Dahlquist said. "It came down to who wanted it more."

The weather also caused injuries. Martinez was one victim of the storm. Before he directed the possible game-tying goal away, Martinez collided with Arcadia DeSoto's Vargas at midfield.

Martinez lay still on the soppy grass for a minute.

He wasn't about to stay there.

"I knew I was coming back," Martinez said.

He did.

Twenty minutes later, he saved the game.