NAVARRE – Whether it put one defender or three on him, Pace just couldn’t contain Jason Lages in Tuesday’s District 1-4A quarterfinal.
Beating a trio of defenders on the left sideline and then creating space up the middle after stopping on a dime and cutting it back above the box, the Fort Walton Beach freshman scored a pair of goals to lead the third-seeded Vikings to a 2-1 victory over the sixth-seeded Patriots at the Navarre Soccer Complex.
“I scored a couple of first half goals … and the team played well,” Lages said.
For FWB coach Greg DeVito, the quarterfinal tilt had all the makings of a one-and-done setting.
“The playoffs are exciting, especially with a good Pace team coming out very fast,” he said. “We tried to play good soccer, tried to keep good possession of the ball and we did well in the first half. Then we just kind of closed it out in the second half.”
The Vikings will now face second-seeded Navarre, which cruised to a 5-0 win over seventh-seeded Pine Forest Tuesday night, at Navarre High School tonight at 7:30.
“We’ve got a match tomorrow night against Navarre and that should be an exciting match,” Devito said. “We’ll just keep trying to improve as we’ve done all season. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have similar results.”
The first half success was on the shoulders of Lages, who scored in the 10th and 29th minutes in his first prep postseason tilt.
Pace’s defense deserves an assist on the initial goal.
The reward of outmaneuvering three defenders on the left sideline, one of which was loudly screaming ‘no turn,’ Lages was in fact able to turn toward the goal, knife through the trio and put the ball in front of the goal. The shot glanced off of a Pace defender and deflected inside the left, near post to stake the Vikings to a 1-0 advantage.
“I cut them and I tried to cross it but it hit a defender and went in,” Lages said.
Nineteen minutes later, he would provide an encore. This time Lages gathered a pass near the top, left side the box, juked Justin Gormley and beat the keeper inside the left post with a right-footer.
“The guy came at me, I cut it and I was just happy it went in,” Lages said.
For Devito, Lages’ success not only spoke volumes on his talent, but also that of his teammates.
“He did well. He’s got a lot of attacking ability, Jason does,” DeVito said. “A lot of our players, we possess the ball to make that happen.”
The first half would prove to be all Vikings, and their dominant play would be represented in the shot tally. With 15 shots to Pace’s five, Fort Walton Beach went into the break ahead 2-0.
Chandler Castleman cut the lead in half in the 48th minute by beating Tiegan inside the right post, and Pace would piece together several legitimate scoring threats down the stretch. But each time the Vikings’ defense, anchored by Frank Nasser, Josh Popoy, Andy Rodriguez, Nick Monson and keeper Tristan Tiegan, was able to clear the threat.
“They were solid on the night,” DeVito said. “We’re going to look to improve on the mistake, just as we always do moving forward.”
Tate 3, Crestview 2 (2 OT)
Fourth-seeded Crestview just couldn’t run the clock out.
Despite jumping out to a 2-0 early lead and dominating the possession and pace of their quarterfinal match against fifth-seeded Tate, the Bulldogs dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker in the second overtime period.
Tate, which scored two goals in the final 14 minutes of play to force overtime, completed the comeback early in the second extra period.
Setting up a 5:30 p.m. tilt tonight against top-seeded Niceville, Brad Mims found Austin Stacey in front of goal for a left-footer that found the back of the net at the 7:15 mark.