Posted: 2:07 pm Monday, February 6th, 2012
By Jeff Greer
In the week building up to their respective region finals, King’s Academy’s boys’ and girls’ soccer teams had a penalty shootout at practice. Five boys, five girls, a penalty each.
The boys missed four of the five. In their region semifinal on Friday night, they looked a lot better. King’s made all five of its penalties in a 5-4 penalty shootout win over Clewiston, which pushed King’s to the brink of its first state semifinal appearance in school history.
King’s (13-8-5) hosts powerhouse Tampa Berkeley Prep at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 2A region final. The winner will play either American Heritage or Miami-Gulliver Prep in Friday’s state semifinal.
“Anybody we play at this point, we’re the underdog,” King’s coach Jerry Barrantes said. “We feel like we can stay in any game. And if we’re in the game, we have a chance.”
King’s didn’t always look like region final material. The Lions started 1-4-1. They struggled against a schedule that had eight district champions from last season on it. But the winter tournament at Wellington changed everything.
The Lions tied District 9-5A champion Wellington and 5A region semifinalist Park Vista and lost a competitive match to American Heritage, the nationally ranked favorite to win the 2A state title. King’s hasn’t lost a match since that Jan. 6 loss to Heritage.
Barrantes said his defense, anchored by goalkeeper Nick Bates, has been the staple of his team’s turnaround.
“We really hit our stride and kept improving,” Barrantes said. “The back four has been really, really solid.”
Barrantes’ team has broken quite the path this season. The Lions won their first district title. They won their first region playoff game. And their second. And now they’re on the brink of one more step.
“It’s really been exciting,” King’s Athletic Director Adam Winters said. “They’ve been fun to watch.”