By Graham Henderson
International High School squared off against Gateway on Tuesday, in what was likely a preview of the Bay Counties League Central championship game.
The league’s two strongest teams have now met twice this season, with undefeated International (10-0-2, 5-0-0) taking both victories, including Tuesday’s 2-0 win at Crocker Amazon Playground.
For both teams, the game was an opportunity to size themselves up against their only real competition in the BCL Central.
“We need to work on trying to stop their quick and fast attackers,” said International head coach Carlos Bover. “These guys are very tough. They’re going to bring a totally different team. It’s going to be a very tough game in the final.”
The game went scoreless through the first half, as play became increasingly physical between the evenly-matched sides.
It wasn’t until the 73rd minute that the Jaguars got on the board.
On a free kick from near the corner, senior Lawrence Dogherty connected with a well-placed ball from Claudio Tarchi. Dogherty’s header couldn’t have been better, leaving Gators’ goalkeeper Fauris Franco with no chance.
“It was just a perfect ball from Claudio,” Dogherty said. “I managed to get past the defenders and it was a good header. We’d had a tough game. I think that gave us the momentum.”
For Bover, recent drills in practice had finally paid off.
“We’ve been practicing headers and crossings for the past three weeks,” he said. “The goal was very important to us, but the way the goal went in — amazing.”
The goal gave the Jaguars the spark they needed. Just moments later, in the 76th minute, Lucas Harrell managed to put the ball away by getting past Franco after getting a pass from Jose Garduno. Harrell easily dribbled into the empty net.
“It was just a perfect ball,” Harrell said. “It poked past the keeper, just barely, and then, I mean, I couldn’t miss.”
Harrell, who played goalkeeper during the first half, earned his second yellow card less than a minute after scoring and was ejected.
Harrell missed the ball entirely on a slide tackle to earn the card.
“I just got all man, pretty much,” he said, conceding that the card was justified.
Despite the shutout, Gateway held its own for much of the game, outshooting the Jaguars 10-7. Even more Gators’ shots just missed their targets.
In the first half, Richardo Mendoza’s header went off the post after a corner kick from Ricardo Calderon. Then, in the second half, Marlon Morales shot a ball just over the crossbar, and an unmarked Calderon missed the net entirely when he had only Jaguar keeper Gabriel Landaverde to beat.
“We just missed our opportunities,” said Gateway head coach Joe Killmaier. “I think that was the big thing, because that just changed that whole momentum.”
The Jaguars’ confidence continues to grow with every win and they figure to cruise through the rest of league play.
“We’ve beat them twice now, so this’ll definitely give us some confidence going into the league championship game,” Harrell said.
I: 73rd minute — Lawrence Dogherty
I: 76th minute — Lucas Harrell