FORT WALTON BEACH - After a first half filled with pouring rain and plunging temperatures, the weather took a positive turn in the second half of Wednesday’s non-district boys’ soccer match between Fort Walton Beach and Choctaw.
The action went up a notch, too.
Fort Walton Beach’s Mikey Sweirtz delivered on a beautiful, streaking goal in the 10th minute of the second half and Choctaw’s Sean Hofstatter countered with a header into the back of the net 20 minutes later as the two rivals battled to an entertaining 1-1 tie at Steve Riggs Stadium.
“Ahead of the district tournament, we want to be playing great soccer,” said Fort Walton Beach head coach Greg Devito, who watched his team move to 11-3-1 on the season. “I thought both teams played hard and really gave the crowd an entertaining night of soccer.”
In the first half, DeVito’s team was the more aggressive bunch, firing off seven shots on goal compared to Choctaw’s five. On the night, the Vikings out-shot the Indians 14-9, and it was a bullet from Sweirtz that opened the scoring.
After FWB’s Jason Lages took control of the ball near midfield, he sent a perfectly-placed pass to the right side where a streaking Sweirtz launched it past Choctaw keeper Adam Cahill for the opening goal of the match. Cahill had 13 saves on the night.
Staked to the 1-0 lead, the Vikings carried the advantage through much of the second half. Coming out of the mandated water break midway through the half, though, Choctaw played with renewed purpose, matching FWB’s intensity and aggression, which ultimately led to Hofstatter’s game-tying goal.
“Fort Walton Beach was aggressive tonight, I thought we were laying back there for a while,” said Choctaw head coach Chris McDaniel. “But when we needed it, our guys responded. It was just a good match between two good teams.”
Hofstatter’s goal came in the 29th minute. Kevin Sanchez lofted a pass into the box and Hofstatter rose over a pair of FWB defenders to head the ball into the back of the net, tying the game at 1-1.
For the final 11 minutes, both teams attempted to mount an offensive attack, but neither team put together a serious threat.
Now 16-2-2, Choctaw will meet Pace Friday night to finish out the regular season before hosting the District 1-3A Tournament next week.
The Vikings have concluded their regular season and now will travel to Navarre for district tournament play starting Tuesday.