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Tritons edge Seahawks for district soccer crown

February 6, 2018
By PETE SISK ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The Mariner Tritons finally got it done against Cape Coral.

Mariner won the District 3A-13 boys soccer championship Friday night, taking down their archrivals 2-0 in at Mariner High School.

TJ McKay scored a first-half goal for Mariner and Alex Franco made a penalty kick in the second half.

Mariner (22-6-0) snapped a three-game losing streak against its biggest rival, including two regular-season losses this season and Cape's victory in last year's district final.

The Tritons also snapped a two-year losing streak at the hands of the Seahawks in district championship games.

"It's a good feeling because this junior class hadn't won a district title," Mariner coach Martin Cardenas said. "I reminded them that we haven't had a class that hasn't won a district championship.

"This particular junior class has a lot of kids who work really hard, and there's a lot of skill. They just need to come together, and today I think they did."

The Tritons will open the state Class 3A playoffs at home Wednes-day against Golden Gate (15-4-1), which fell 2-1 to fourth-seeded Immokalee in the 3A-14 final. That means that the Seahawks (21-3-2) travel to Immokalee (11-11-4) on Wednesday to face the five-time district champs.

Cape had the frustration of dominating play in the first half, only to trail 1-0. While the second half was more closely balanced, it was again Mariner which would find the back of the net.

"We had our chances at the beginning of the game," Seahawks coach Daniel Gross said. "We didn't put our chances away. We had about 10 quality chances, Mariner had three. They put two of them away, and we didn't. That was the difference.

"We worked the entire first half. We didn't put it in. They get one chance to score and they did. That's how the game works."

McKay's goal was that one great chance the Tritons had in the first 40 minutes. He used both speed and good moves to get through the Cape defense and score past goaltender Antonio Garcia.

"It's something that we know is going to happen," Cardenas said of Cape's first-half assault. "They've done it in the first couple of games, being really aggressive. The good thing I think about this game was that we had North (Fort Myers) who is really, really fast, and they put us under a lot of pressure with their speed. And then Port Charlotte did the same thing (in the semifinals). I told the boys that if we just do what they did against those two teams, and play a little smarter - we had a few moments when our defense was a little shaky, but we survived those moments.

"The opportunities, I don't think we had as many as we had the last game (against Cape) but we made them count."

It was also McKay who set up the second goal. He was brought down inside the box, with the officials awarding a penalty kick. Garcia's objection to the call earned him a yellow card, with the result that backup Dylan Linares had to come off the bench cold and face Franco's penalty kick.

The high-spirited rivalry had sizeable crowds on both sides of the stadium Friday night.

As always when these two meet, emotions ran high.

Cape vs. Mariner is one of the rare soccer rivalries in Southwest Florida where the teams have benches on opposite sides of the field instead of the same side. By the same token, Seahawks and Tritons fans entered through separate gates to reach their designated seating areas.

McKay wound up being ejected late in the match. After drawing a yellow card, McKay quickly received a second yellow and then a blue card.

Cardenas said the ejection would have no effect on McKay's eligibility to play Wednesday against Golden Gate.

"We just need to be smarter," Cardenas said. "We need to stay in the game."

Both sides have unfinished business with state playoff competition just beginning. But for Cape, the Seahawks hope to settle some of that unfinished business against the Tritons.

"We move on to the state tournament," Gross said. "Our goal is to meet Mariner again next Saturday (in the second round of the playoffs). That's our goal."



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