High School Sports

Prep soccer | Braden River edges North Port to advance

NORTH PORT -- The season wasn't supposed to end when it did Wednesday night.

North Port High School's boys soccer team was supposed to make a deep run into the postseason. The Bobcats had talked about it all season.

But North Port's season didn't end deep in the state series, or even in the regional tournament. It ended in the Bobcats' first and only postseason game, with fourth-seeded Braden River celebrating a 2-1 District 4A-11 semifinal win on top-seeded North Port's home field.

"Not in my wildest dreams," Gregoire said when asked if he ever thought his team's season would end in the district semifinals. "We didn't take our chances. We had a few to really put the game away, and we didn't take them. That's the difference. It becomes about scoring, and when we needed them, it didn't happen."

Pirates goalkeeper Jake Buffaline allowed an early goal, but Braden River was unfazed. The Pirates scored the equalizer in the 23rd minute when senior Mario Lopez stole an outlet pass from Bobcats goalie Davian Fajardo and punched it into the right side of the goal

Lopez gave Braden River the first and only lead it would need in the 49th minute, receiving a pass from teammate Mitchell McCormick off another bad goal kick, wrapping around to the left of Fajardo and skipping in a low shot from the end line.

"It came down to who wanted it more, and we had the most heart out there tonight," McCormick said. "This game we proved that we wanted it more, and that we wanted revenge."

North Port mustered just five shots the rest of the way, their best opportunity coming on a corner kick in the 77th minute where senior Jacob Sumaljag's header sailed just over the top of the crossbar. Frustration had boiled over not long before that, with Margaryan and junior Tyler Smolik receiving separate yellow cards in a span of 20 seconds.

"We showed up and we didn't play," Margaryan said. "On paper, we're the better team. We showed we're the better team. But we didn't get the job done. They were hungry, they came here and they wanted it. That's what it comes down to.

"It wasn't supposed to end tonight. That's the hardest part."