Sharks soccer strengthens as post-season nears
With their record now a completely balanced 6-6-1, the Tiger Sharks boys soccer team is poised to make a strong finish, now that the team roles are fully in place.
“We have a good core group of kids playing well together, and as a team,” said coach Bobby Alexander. “We had a rough patch for a while, trying to figure some things out, and personalities. We didn’t have the football guys to start.
“I think we’re going to finish strong. The dynamics are there,” he said. I think we’ve settled on some positions and backup.”
Port St. Joe opened Nov. 12 with a 7-1 win at home against Bozeman, as senior #7 Blake Gay led the team with nine points, based on four goals and one assist.
Freshman captain #6 Taylor Burkett had one goal and three assists for five points, while freshman #12 Estevan Angel had a goal and an assist for three points. Sophomore #9 Jaydon Gant had a goal, while freshman #4 Lance Larry had an assist.
Senior #1 Alex Strickland had six steals, while junior #3 Ashton Burkett had five.
Junior goalie #34 Caleb Zur Heiden Jr. had six saves, while freshman #13 Fisher Vandertulip had three saves and gave up a goal.
On Nov. 14 at home vs freeport, Port St. Joe won 3-1, led by Gant, with two goals and an assist.
Larry had a goal and an assist, and Taylor Burkett an assist.
Facing 12 shots on goal, Zur Heiden had seven saves and gave up a goal.
On Nov. 18 the team lost 3-1 at Rutherford, with Gay scoring the lone goal, on an assist by junior captain #10 Daniel Porter Hodges.
Zur Heiden handled 10 shots on goal, saved six of them, and allowed three to score.
On Dec. 1, at home, the Tiger Sharks shutout Wakulla Christian 2-0, as Gay had a goal and an assist and Angle a goal.
Zue Heiden saved all seven shots on goal that were kicked his way.
In a double header on Saturday, Dec. 5 at home, the Gulf County boys opened with a 6-1 loss to the Walton County Braves, and fell 4-2 in the nightcap.
“We played early Saturday morning and we came out sluggish. We didn’t account for their speed,” said Alexander. “We managed the game better but still came up short.”
In the opener, Gay scored the lone goal, with Zur Heiden saving eight of the 14 shots on goal he was tasked with. In the nightcap, Gant and sophomore #14 Tad Russell each scored a goal. In giving up the four goals, Zur Heiden saved eight of the 14 shots that came his way.
On Dec. 8 at home, the boys lost 7-1 to Bay, and then on Dec. 12, they lost 4-1 to Rocky Bayou, also at home.
Against Bay, Zur Heiden saved eight of the 13 shots sent his way, allowing five goals, while Vandertulip saved four of six shots, giving up a pair of goals.
Against Rocky Bayou, Larry sold the lone goal, while Zur Heiden saved seven of the Knight’s dozen shots, giving up four goals.
On Dec. 15 at Franklin County, the Tiger Sharks blanked the Seahawks 6-0, led by two goals and one assist each, for Gay and Gant, and goals by Russell and senior #22 James Will McCall.
Hodges has two assists and Larry and Taylor Burkett each one. Zur Heiden saved all three of the shots he faced.
On Dec. 17 at Wakulla Christian. Port St. Joe won 2-0, with Gant scoring both goals, and Gay and McCall each tallying an assist.
Zur Heiden saved all six shots on goal.
On Jan. 5, at Port St. Joe, the Tiger Sharks defeated Franklin County 9-2.
Gant led the team by scoring a hat trick – three goals., and Hodges added two others. Gay had a goal and three assists, Larry a goal and an assist and Taylor Burkett a goal.
Zur Heiden saved four of the shots he was was faced with, giving up both goals, while Vandertulip saved all four shots that came his way.
On Jan. 7, the Tiger Sharks lost a tough-fought battle at North Bay Haven 5-4.
“We got over there but we just didn’t show up until the first water break, and they went out to a 3-0 lead,” said Alexander. “We worked our way back in it. We just had a couple mistakes that led to goals late.
At the midpoint, “we challenged the boys if they were going to go back out there they were going to give it their all,” said the coach. “They played a great game, and left it all out on the field. They played really strong; we were very proud of them.”
In the end, a foul led to a North Bay Haven free kick just outside the 18 box, and the player buried it for the win.
Gant led the team with two goals, with a goal and an assist by Angel and a goal by Taylor Burkett. Larry had two assists and Hodges one.
Zur Heiden saved four of the nine shots he was faced with.
On Saturday, Port St. Joe tied Freeport 1-1 at home.
“This time we had some kids on quarantine for the first time,” said Alexander, noting that a referee shortage in the western counties has led to Port St. Joe facing these opponents often twice at home.
“All those Walton county teams have bene traveling here,” he said. “It came down to a regular good game of soccer that day.”
The boys host Rutherford Thursday. Jan. 14 at 7 p.m., with the girls at 5 p.m.
The 34-players roster also includes sophomore captain #2 Christian Peacock, senior #8 Luis Ponce, seventh grader #16 Brody Mock, junior #18 Caden Jackson, seventh grader #19 Connor Howell, eighth grader #20 Shlok Patel, seventh grader #22 Costin Marshall, freshman #23 Russell Dunn, seventh grader #24 Jacob Marshall, senior #25 Philip Riley, eighth grader #27 Grady Player, seventh grader #28 Rhett Jemison, seventh grader #29 Nathan Lipford, sophomore #32 Arav Patel and junior #33 Justice Peacock.
This article originally appeared on The Star: Sharks soccer strengthens as post-season nears