The road to the Class 2A Final Four came to a screeching halt for Port St. Joe’s boys soccer team 2-0 last Wednesday, Feb. 16, in St. Augustine, at the hands – or feet – of the Flashes of St. Joseph Academy.
That the Tiger Sharks made it to the regional finals is a tribute to their resilience and grit, however, since they had to travel to Niceville and play Rocky Bayou in a rematch barely nine days after the Knights defeated Port St. Joe at Sam Cox Field for the district title.
This time it would be the Sharks who would disappoint the Okaloosa County crowd in the back-and-forth affair that would be decided on penalty kicks.
Tied 3-3 after regulation, neither team scored in the 20-minute overtime period before resorting to penalty kicks, which resulted in a St. Joe victory after 13 such kicks.
During regulation, senior striker Elias Alexander scored two goals, with sophomore Taylor Burkett earning an assist. Senior Gerson Flores not only kicked in the third and tying goal, but also hit the final penalty kick to give the Tiger Sharks a measure of redemption after the bitter district finals loss at home.
“Our boys were awesome,” said Shark coach Bobby Alexander. “They showed poise, tenacity, and sportsmanship in a very tense situation. It was a complete team effort.”
A few days later, on Saturday, Feb. 12, the Sharks boarded the bus to Tallahassee to take on the Panthers of St. John Paul II in a regional semi-final match.
On this night, the hero would be eighth grader Josiah Beach, who scored the lone goal of the game thanks to an assist by senior Porter Hodges. Sophomore goalie Fisher Vandertulip preserved the shutout with eight saves, and the Sharks left the field 1-0 winners, leaving the home team fans looking on in shock and disbelief.
In the regional finals, however, the Flashes proved too much for the Sharks, whose season ended with a record of 14-9.
Alexander, though disappointed at the outcome, said that “Elite Eight, Region 1 runner-up is more than we could have hoped for when we started.
“The goal is always a championship, but we have a tough road through many quality soccer schools,” said Alexander. “What the boys have accomplished is a testament to their heart and hard work. Shark Pride.”