Eagles take 3A-11 title with 2-1 win over Hardee, their 1st championship since 1997
By J. Daniel Pearson
For the News-Gazette
With an overall record of 6-11-2 and no district titles in the last two decades, few expected anything from the Poinciana Eagles soccer team as the post-season started this week.
Coach Daniel Joyner’s team had different thoughts as the Eagles knocked off Hardee High School, 2-1, Wednesday to claim the District 3A-11 championship, the Eagles’ first since 1997.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these kids,” Joyner said after the game. “I’m not sure what really turned it around for us this past week but our kids started believing in themselves and started to believe we could finish games. I think we are finally starting to play to our abilities.”
The Eagles will host the loser of 3A-12’s title game between Eau Gallie and
It was not an easy win for Poinciana, which reached the district championship game with a 5-1 upset over Sebring Monday. Although Samir Jawhari staked the Eagles to a 1-0 lead with a penalty kick at the 19:13 mark of the first half, Poinciana was fortunate to take that lead into the locker room.
The Eagles gave the ball away numerous times on their own end in that first half. Hardee (8-8-1) registered five shots on goal to just one for the Eagles in the period. Early in the game, Abed Hijaz got a shot past Poinciana goalie Felipe Petruccelli and it appeared headed for the center of the net, only to have defenseman Rocky Scarlett make a hustling play and sweep the ball off the goal line.
Scarlett was called for an intentional hand ball inside the penalty area 10 minutes later, but Petruccelli made a huge save on Hijaz’s penalty shot to make the lead stand into halftime.
“Even though we had the lead, I really didn’t think we played very well in the first half. We were tentative and maybe playing a little nervous,” Joyner said. “I really just told the guys to relax, breathe and have some fun. Our intensity level was much better in the second half -- both offensively and defensively.”
Poinciana upped the lead to 2-0 with 16:25 remaining in the game when Cristovan Gomes found the right corner of the net on a perfect pass from Jesse Roman. Hardee cut the lead to 2-1 with 7:16 left, but the Eagles took control of the game from that point. The vast majority of the last seven minutes was spent with the Eagles in control of the ball on the Hardee side of the field.
“Hardee is a really good team at the counter attack, and that’s basically what happened. They picked the ball off out front and Felipe couldn’t get to the ball first, it became an easy goal for them,” Joyner said.
“We still have not played our best game. We have some kids nursing some nagging injuries and hopefully we can use the next week to get healthy. It’s not going to get any easier for us, but I know our players are looking forward to the next opportunity.
“Me and my Assistant Coach Nicholas Devore inherited a program that needed a rebuild. We did it the right way, through hard work and homegrown talent. Our senior group is the first group we really worked with when we got here and we built a special bond with them that culminated in this successful season. This isn’t a one hit wonder - we’ve built a program that has staying power.”