A near two-decade drought has ended, as the St. Cloud Boys’ soccer team defeated New Smyrna Beach on Friday night, 3-1, to claim the Class 6A, District 9 Championship.
The win lifted the Bulldogs to 15-5-1 on the season and was the first district title for St. Cloud since 2004. “It was a long time in coming,” Head
“It was a long time in coming,” Head Coach Weylan Craig said. “This is the first championship we have won since I’ve been here and I know it means a lot to all of our players, especially our seniors that have worked so hard to get to this point.”
St. Cloud would get the first good scoring opportunity of the game, but Fabrizio Lucia’s blast from distance just missed – bouncing off the post. But midway through the first half, Anderson Aqudelo’s corner kick got loose in front of the net and Mariano Martinez blasted it home for his second goal of the season and a 1-0 Bulldog lead.
The score would remain the same until four minutes left in the half. With St. Cloud taking another corner, the ball appeared heading out of bounds on the far side post, but a Bulldog player managed to head the ball back in play in front of the net. Lucia would direct it home on a header to make it a 2-0 game.
“Both goals were textbook,” Craig noted. “Even though we were up 2-0, I told our guys at half that we could not take anything for granted. We were pretty evenly matched and I warned them that we could not let up.”
New Smyrna would cut the gap to one with 34 minutes to go. St. Cloud goalie Noah Craig would stop a shot, but the rebound came back to Jaden Smith, who directed it in the net on a header to make it 2-1.
But St. Cloud would make it a two-goal lead again a few minutes later. Taking a free kick from about 30-yards out, the Bulldogs would get a breaker, as a Barracuda player would attempt to clear the ball off the line but would accidentally direct it in for an own goal and a 3-1 advantage.
“That third goal was really big. It gave us the two-goal lead back and really put the pressure back on them,” Craig added. “It also seemed to give us a spark for the rest of the game.”
The win ensured St. Cloud would played a regional quarterfinal on Tuesday night against Viera (17-2-2).
Harmony (12-4-5) captured an at-large bid and played a Tuesday night road game against second-seeded Melbourne (18-3-1).
“It was a long time in coming. This is the first championship we have won since I’ve been here and I know it means a lot to all of our players, especially our seniors that have worked so hard to get to this point.”
-WEYLAN CRAIG, St. Cloud High
School head soccer coach.