The bleached-blond Mariner Tritons soccer team claimed the District 3A-11 championship Friday night at Island Coast, upsetting the top-seeded Cape Coral Seahawks 1-0.
The first half of play saw a tight battle for on-field supremacy by both teams.
Mariner's game was calculated, precise and physical, with steady doses of one-touch passes and aggressive body positioning for headers and incoming passes.
Mariner’s Andy Naranjo (6) hugs Lucas Orellana to celebrate Friday night’s 1-0 victory over Cape Coral in the District 3A-11 Championship soccer game at Island Coast High School.
Cape favored a more refined style of play with frequent displays of individual foot skills, speed and a handful of well-placed but ineffective crosses from midfielder Camillo Avendano and forward Gianni Cognata.
As the half continued, the physicality increased. Each team committed more than seven fouls, resulting in a yellow card for Seahawks midfielder Christian Iturbe.
Mariner goalkeeper Alex Trujillo had five saves in the first half with two clutch punch-outs coming late. Cape keeper Alex Collazo had five saves in the half.
The second half brought more stingy defense from both teams and increased tension.
At the 30-minute mark a time-stopping scuffle between Mariner defender Justin Kuchle and Cape midfielder Christopher Iturbe broke out around the Cape goal, nearly resulting in a Tritons score off the awarded free kick.
Mariner made up for the missed opportunity.
A contact-laden run by Mariner midfielder Josh Teeter led to a foul inside the the penalty box. Tritons forward Lucas Orellana took the penalty kick. Collazo guessed left, but Orellana kicked right, placing the ball in the bottom corner of the net for the game's only score.
The second yellow card of the night was given to Seahawks defender Ryan Hoegler with six minutes left.
The Seahawks put on one final scoring push at the end of the game, keeping the ball in the box long enough to rattle off three consecutive shots on goal - all of which nearly hit their mark, but ultimately fell short.
The physicality and disciplined defense of the Tritons, anchored by middle defender Justin Kuchle, proved too much for the Seahawks.
"We pride ourselves on playing tough defense," said 20-year Tritons coach Martin Cardenas. "We know we're not going to score a lot of points, but we're also not going to give up a lot of points. In the 26 games we've played, we've only given up three goals once."
The Tritons (16-5-5) host District 3A-12 runner-up Immokalee in the Region 3A-3 quarterfinals on Wednesday at Tony McKenna Field.
The Seahawks (17-3-3) travel to District 3A-12 champion Estero on Wednesday.