Spartans rolls to region final

By Mike Zima Correspondent
Posted 2/24/21

ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School forward Jacob Graston scored two goals to lead St. Johns Country Day School to a 4-0 victory over visiting St. Augustine St. Joseph Academy in a Class 2A …

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Spartans rolls to region final

Posted

ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School forward Jacob Graston scored two goals to lead St. Johns Country Day School to a 4-0 victory over visiting St. Augustine St. Joseph Academy in a Class 2A Region 1 boys soccer semifinal on Sat., Feb. 20.
The Spartans were sharp from the beginning. They had a quality scoring chance on the game’s opening possession, but a pass intended for John Linge in the 18-yard box traveled a bit too far. Linge regained possession for the Spartans quickly, deftly got around a defender at the upper right side of the box, and launched a drive from 17 yards out to the upper right corner of the goal. Flashes keeper George Partel had no chance to deflect it.
“That goal was huge,” said SJCD coach Brad Schmidt. “This was the first time in a while we have gotten off to a really good start.”
Graston, who had a hat trick in the Spartans’ win over Springhill Bishop McLaughlin Catholic in the regional quarterfinal, continued his hot play with some assistance from Dru Detefsen. Working the ball up the right sideline from the Spartans end of the field, Detefsen sent a long-range lob deep down the left side. Graston caught up to the ball ahead of his defender, moved toward the goal as Partel came out to meet him, and took a shot that Partel was able to deflect. The ball hit the far post, but Graston was the first player to the rebound. The sophomore redirected it just over the goal line before St. Joseph fullback Grant Hawthorne kicked it back into the field, and the Spartans led 2-0.
“He’s got an engine,” SJCD coach Brad Schmidt said of Graston’s hustle. “He is a big fan of scoring goals.”
Down two at the intermission, St. Joseph came out more determined as the second half began, but Spartans goalie Brendan McNeil made two saves and center back Luke Graston made a kick save after McNeil had left the goal to try to stop a fast break by the Flashes’ Will Curtis. Jacob Graston blunted the Flashes’ momentum with 30:39 remaining, blasting a shot from the upper left corner of the box towards the net. Partel lunged to his right and was able to get his fingers on the ball, but could not prevent it from trickling into the goal.
“Give [St. Joseph head coach] Casey [O’Linn] a lot of credit,” said Schmidt. “He threw at lot of different looks at us. But there is a big difference between being up 2-1 and being up 3-0.”
Detefsen completed the scoring with a penalty kick in the sixty-fifth minute. Teammate Landon Brafford had dibbled up the left side and into the penalty box before drawing a foul as he delivered a shot.
Partel made nine saves for the Flashes, who end their season with a 12-6-2 record. Four of the losses were to SJCD.
The Spartans outshot St. Joseph 31-7 and had a 6-1 edge in corner kicks.
SJCD improves to 14-2-1, and will host Tallahassee Maclay in the regional final on Tuesday, February 23. Maclay, undefeated at 14-0-2, has outscored their two regional opponents 17-0 and downed the Spartans 1-0 in the first game of this season. This will be the third consecutive season that the foes have met in the regional final, with SJCD winning in 2019 and the Marauders winning last year.
“Maclay is a very athletic and very physical team,” said Schmidt. “It will be a very competitive match.”

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