Above photo courtesy of Lynn Damm Photography
Creekside won the opening face off but an early turnover sent the ball back to Nease, who quickly drew a pair of flags for pushing. It didn’t take long for the EMO to pay off as Michael Cotter hit Matt Olkiewicz for the first score just 1:29 into the game.
Nease added another as a long pass down the string line found Brent Whitting alone on the crease. He made a nice finish for the first of his three goals on the night.
Nease kept the offense moving and everyone was always where they should be, making it easy for the ball carrier to find their next pass. Brent Whitting got the ball at X and threw another long pass to Cotter, who has a great first step. He made it 3-0 with 7:07 left to go in the first quarter.
Less than a minute later Creekside’s Parker Scott busted a Nease clear and hit Brandon Edwards for the Knight’s first goal of the game. Great hustle play and Scott instinctively pushed the tempo on the unsettled opportunity.
Creekside looked like they really wanted to get the offense going on dodges from the top but great LSM and short stick middie play really made them work for it. A long possession finally paid off as Taylor Grant found Brandon Edwards again to close the gap to a single goal with 4:15 left in the first.
The first quarter ended with the score and the stats close. Creekside had a few more shots than Nease but most were from the outside. Creekside also turned the ball over two more times than Nease.
A penalty, that I have to assume was for an illegal stick, was assessed against Creekside between the first and second quarters. Nease started quarter number two with the ball and a three minute non-releaseable EMO and they took advantage. Just 13 seconds into it Phil Mylet made it 4-2. Not quite a minute later Mylet took the skip pass from Whitting to make it 5-2.
That three minute EMO was a game changer, but it wasn’t over yet. Just before the Creekside penalty expired Nease was flagged twice, then a third. Creekside had a 6 on 3 EMO and a great chance to get back in it. On the EMO, however, Creekside settled for a less than perfect shot opportunity and Ian Areford, in the goal for Nease, made the save and got possession for his team. A minute of keep away and Nease had killed all three penalties.
While Creekside may have put themselves in a hole they didn’t even come close to giving up. With just under six minutes left inthe half Julian Bonnilla made a fantastic catch on a high pass in the hole and made a great shot to get the Knights to within two.
A minute and a half later an illegal check gave the Creekside EMO team another chance. Tim Vanderlinde made it count with an off hip blistering shot from the wing that made it 5-4.
Joey Oliveira got that back for Nease as he hit the alley and finished on the run to make it 6-4 with 3:00 left in the half.
Other than the 3:00 penalty the first half was played statistically pretty even. Shots, turnover, Face Offs, and GB’s were all pretty close. But in the third quarter the F/O X belonged to Ashton Wood, Nease’s sophomore face off man.
Although the first possession went to Creekside, Nease’s Tyler Schaffer got the rock and apparently forgot he’s wearing a large brace on an injured lower leg and boot-scooted end to end in a flash to make a perfect overhanded bounce shot with the long pole to make it 7-4 and get his team even more fired up.
The next possession went to Nease and they drew a flag. Hunter Kobin made it hurt as he scored on a pass from Phil Mylet to make it 8-4.
Nease was taking control of the face offs and winning the ground ball battles, especially in between the boxes. Nease was able to take advantage of a dangerous restart from near midfield and caught Creekside slow getting back on defense as Brent Whitting scored to make it 9-4.
With his team down five goals and time winding down to the final minute and a half of the third quarter Julian Bonilla showed why he is considered one of North Florida’s most elite middies. He picked up the ball on a midfield restart and just launched himself down the field and toward the pipes like a missile and off balance, drawing a flag, fired the ball past Areford for his second goal of the game which was even more spectacular than the first.
With :41 left in the third Nease was flagged for a non-releasable late hit penalty. With only :07 left in the quarter Vanderlinde found a narrow opening going low to high and got one just under the crossbar.
In a super smart move by the young Nease face off specialist he got a fast break on the face off with short time left on the clock but instead of driving to the pipes he pulled the ball out and held possession so his team would start the fourth quarter with the ball and be able to kill the rest of the non-releasable penalty. Excellent knowledge of the rules, as well as game awareness and execution by the sophomore.
Nease not only took advantage of the smart move by Wood to kill the penalty but Whitting ended up scoring on the possession to get his hat trick and a 10-6 lead for his team.
The final 11:20 were scoreless as both teams traded runs, possessions, and turnovers.
It should be noted that not only did Creekside’s Julian Bonilla score two of the most spectacular goals of the game, he is a solid two-way middie who played excellent defense for the Knights in this game.
Nease’s first year head coach, Max Gurowski, was happy with his team’s work on ground balls. “The key was ground balls and that always starts at the face off X and our guy Ashton. He just battles and our wings do a great job of staying hip to hip..we definitely get our energy from him working hard at the face off X.” He made a point of his team’s other specialist, goalie Ian Areford who recorded 12 saves. “I’ve been telling them all year that Ian is the best goalie in Florida and right now we have him thinking he’s the best goalie in America and he’s playing like it every game.”
He knows his team is going to need to clean up one aspect of their game before facing PV later this week. Eleven second half turnovers really kept Creekside in the game. “We’ve been harping on the fact that unforced turnovers are the only thing that’s been undoing us all year. It’s just taking care of the ball and not shooting ourselves in the foot.”
PV and Nease face off Thursday night at 7:00 at Creekside High School.