NAPLES NEWS — After his Sharks blew out Palmetto Ridge in Friday night’s District 18 title game, Gulf Coast coach Bob Miller immediately looked ahead to, if not exactly forward to, Tuesday night’s first-round play-in game against District 17 champ Barron Collier.
The Cougars had whipped the Sharks 19-2 at Barron Collier in a late regular-season meeting, but Miller said some key players missed that and Gulf Coast had some change-ups in store.
They didn’t work.
After Gulf Coast got the opening score from freshman Sterling Desorcy just 95 seconds in, the Cougars easily scratched out 16 straight goals for a 16-1 halftime lead en route to the 19-5 shortened rout at Gulf Coast.
Barron Collier (15-3) advances to play the winner between Tampa-Jesuit and Estero.
“We had a solid first-half effort from our starters and rested them in the second half to get ready for Friday night,” Barron Collier coach Trent Carter said. “That was huge. The guys came out on fire tonight and came out to a great start. That’s what we wanted to do — take the breath out of them early.
“Since (Miller) did mention something in the paper, I thought they were going to throw some wrinkles at us, but I didn’t see any wrinkles that affected us at all.”
Gulf Coast finished its season at 15-5.
“We won district for the first time ever,” Miller said. “So nothing to be ashamed of. We’ll do some work in the offseason and our guys will be a year older and much better next year.”
Barron Collier, which throttled Naples 17-4 in their district title game to retain its crown, dominated this matchup. The bigger, faster, skilled Cougars used breakaway speed, precision passing, aggressive bodying and quicker strikes to play this on the Sharks’ end of the field almost exclusively.
Sophomore Micheal O’Dea led Barron Collier with five goals. Big senior captain Skye Sickles had four and junior Alec Lange scored three times.
After Desorcy’s long goal into an empty net, the Cougars got three quick strikes from Sickles, two from Lange, one from junior Matt Ihm and another from O’Dea to lead 7-1 after one quarter.
Gulf Coast never really threatened much in the second quarter as O’Dea got three straight goals and four total in the period, and the Cougars ensured a running clock due to the mercy rule in the second half with the 16-1 intermission lead.
Ihm had two goals for the Cougars. Hunter Kellett, Austin Miller, Hank Peeples and Micheal Stuckert each scored one. Senior Hunter Krout had five saves.
Gulf Coast got three second-half goals from junior AJ Carter and one from senior Derek Hammack and junior Kristopher Monette came up with six saves.
“They’re just a stronger team,” Miller said. “We have a real young team and it shows when you play against mature guys. They out-ground balled us, had ball possession. You get intimidated when you have an 18-year-old guy going against you and you’re 14 or 15.”