Any outdoor game played in a stiff wind can be an adventure. Any rain that might hit during a contest creates an interesting double.
As it turned out, only wind made things a little interesting Friday for the Manatee High boys soccer Class 5A-Region 8 final against the host St. Petersburg Green Devils at Stewart Field. However, it was a quick strike that made the difference for St. Pete.
Scoring two goals inside the first two minutes of each half, the top-seeded Green Devils outlasted Manatee for a 2-1 victory. Added to a pair of regular-season meetings, this win for St. Petersburg was the third by that margin.
"They're our bogey team," Manatee coach Dave Gully said. "Every club, every program has that. There's always one team that just has your number. No matter how much you strive for it, you just can't beat them.
"It was a tough game. St. Pete is a big, tough aggressive team and tonight they were more aggressive then we were."
With the win, the Green Devils (14-1-2) will host a regional contest Thursday against East Lake. Manatee (13-4-2) will travel to Palm Harbor University, a 5-4 winner over East Lake in penalty kicks Friday.
"Manatee has played us tough all year long," St. Petersburg coach Rui Farias said. "They came to win."
Striking first just two minutes into the contest, Jake Moore gave the Green Devils a 1-0 lead, putting a rebound past Manatee keeper Nick Null. The situation repeated itself opening the second half when a Oswald Francis goal made it a 2-0 game.
"It's just not over," Farias said of his thoughts after the second goal. "The way these two teams are going end to end, one goal could change everything, so we didn't let up and neither did they."
For nearly the other 76 minutes, the Manatee defense did the job. The Hurricanes' offense finally was able to break through, getting a Logan Thomasson goal inside the final two minutes of the game to create the final margin.
"In a game like this where you don't consistently get time or don't get time to react, there's a lot of pressure on the defense," Gully said. "I think our defense did a great job as they have all season."
For his part, Farias expected didn't expect an easy finish to the game.
"A two-goal lead is so much harder to defend than a one goal lead," he said. "Mentally, the players think with a two-goal cushion we don't have to work as hard, then all of a sudden it's 2-1, 2-2 and now you're in trouble."
Now, Manatee must turn its attention to its Thursday matchup with Palm Harbor.
"Now we turn our attention to the regional quarterfinal on Thursday," Gully said. "The mindset now is we have to learn from this game. Every game is a learning opportunity. Hopefully they'll do that and come back Monday ready to play.
TAMPA JESUIT 3, SOUTHEAST 0 -- For the second consecutive year, the Seminoles loaded up a bus and traveled almost two hours through heavy traffic for a district championship match.
And they lost by the same exact score: 3-0.
Moments after they were handed the district runner-up trophy, Southeast coaches Guy Coleman and Steve Marshall came up with a few theories as to why the Seminoles (15-5) looked sluggish in their biggest game of the season: Bus ran late, rushed through warmups, early questionable referee calls got in players' heads.
"But ultimately none of that matters because the bottom line is that Jesuit wanted it more than us tonight," Marshall said. "It came down to ball possession and Jesuit did a much better job of that. (Jesuit) played our (possession style) game better than we did."
After a scoreless first half that was also pretty evenly played on the field, Jesuit (20-2-2) dominated the second half. The Tigers scored in the 41st, 49th and 62nd minutes and all but shut down Southeast's potent offense.
The Seminoles, in fact, totaled only two shots on goal.
Southeast may get another crack at Jesuit in region play, but first it must win its opener on the road against Boca Ciega at 7 p.m. Jan. 30.
-- Herald correspondent Don Willman and the Tampa Bay Times contributed to this report.