The Cinderella Wildcats have managed to compile quite the résumé on the way to the state championship game, but their toughest test is yet to come.
The Berkeley Prep Buccaneers have steamrolled through the regional and state tournaments, giving up a mere three goals while scoring 14.
Wildcats’ goalie Allan Joyner is going to have a major challenge trying to stop the Bucs’ game in the air, which is their strong suit.
“They scored all of their goals off of throw-ins,” West Shore senior forward John Bocinsky said. “They’re big and long in the air; that’s how they win”
Berkeley Prep torched perennial state powerhouse American Heritage 4-1 in the state semifinals, scoring all of its goals on set pieces off of throw-ins.
As for how to stop the Buccaneers, American Heritage Coach Alvin James has some advice.
“It’s tough to prepare for a team like Berkeley,” James said. “They stuck four or five 6-foot-3 players in a box around my goalie, and their throw-in plays were killer.”
According to James, the Buccaneers are beatable, if the Wildcats can handle their tactics.
“We controlled the tempo,” James said. “They only scored their goals in the last 20 minutes, it was our game”
James also added that if the throw-ins had been corner kicks, they would have been far less successful.
The Wildcats have been preparing for this state final even before defeating Jacksonville-Bolles Friday night, but was it for the wrong team?
“We were planning on playing American Heritage and were expecting a tough game,” senior forward Kevin Kurtz said. “To play a team that beat American Heritage, it will be an even tougher game.”
The Wildcats’ latest challenge will perhaps be even more difficult because the championship game will be played at the University of South Florida, a mere 30 minute drive from Berkeley Prep.
The Buccaneers have put together a 19-7 season record, but are 8-1-1 at home, and, playing in Tampa, this is virtually a home game. At 4-4 on a neutral field, Berkeley Prep is led by Senior Kevin Harvey, who has 27 goals on the season. Its starting goalkeeper is senior Leland Newhaller, who averages less than one goal allowed per game, and has kept seven clean sheets on the season.