The Ponte Vedra Boys’ soccer team not only captured the District 3A state soccer championship last Friday evening, they did so by winning their 27th straight game without a loss. Immokalee was the team’s 27th victim in the title game, a game that was never in doubt. The extent of the Sharks domination is evident in shots taken---Ponte Vedra out shot the Indians 24-2.
Ponte Vedra jumped in front early when, at the eight-minute mark, Chris Howard’s header off a corner kick found the leg of Johnny Stephens. Stephens guided the ball past the Indian keeper and the Sharks led 1-0.
Ten minutes later Howard had a hand (or rather a head) in the next Ponte Vedra goal. His set in front of the Indian net found Jack Bingemann’s head. Michael Bennett anticipating the feed from Bingemann, swooped in to drive home the Sharks’ second goal of the game and his 45th of the season.
The Sharks would not score again in the half but not due to any lack of effort on their part. At the twenty minute mark, Nick Kostrubsky, after taking a pass from Stephens, appeared to have a near certain goal, however his shot hit the cross bar. Then Munir Adamo, who played an inspired game, was denied when his shot glanced off the post. Moments later Bingemann converted an Adamo pass but was ruled offside. Adamo’s frustrations continued when his rocket shot was deflected over the crossbar
The second half was even worse for Immokalee. They suffered the embarrassment of an “own goal” when pressure by Kostrubsky caused the Indian defender to boot the ball errantly into his net.
Bingemann, whose motor never stops, was rewarded for his effort. With 6 minutes left he stole a ball in front of the Indian cage and slipped it behind their keeper for the fourth and final Ponte Vedra goal.
To make it to the title game, the Sharks survived a scare against Tampa Jesuit in the semi-final round falling behind 2-0. It was the first time all season in which in which Ponte Vedra played from behind.
After being outplayed for most of the first half, Bennett put the Sharks on the scoreboard trailing 2-1 with five minutes left in the half.
The Sharks regained control of the match in the second half as Tampa played cautiously trying to protect their lead. Howard converted a corner to tie the game in the 63rd minute then Bennett delivered the game winner with five minutes left to play.
It was a magnificent season for the Sharks who won their second state championship in three years. This quotation by T. Alan Armstrong best summarizes the boys’ achievement: “Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years that they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance is merely the demonstration of their championship character.”