Down 3-0, Central comes
to life behind a pair of
goals by Nugo Bakaria
By TONY CASTRO
BROOKSVILLE – After a pair of hard-to-swallow 4-3 setbacks this week on the road at Umatilla and Zephyrhills, the main issue would be how would the Bears respond in its initial county tilt Thursday against Springstead.
In its third match in four nights, CHS goalkeeper Alec Robichaud stoned the first shot he faced 60 seconds into the match.
Problem was, after Robichaud knocked the ball down it rolled to an unmarked Springstead striker James Campbell.
The heads-up Campbell – the county‘s No. 3 scorer entering the match with 11 goals – was in the right place at the right time to tap in the rebound, 1-0.
Campbell would finish with his first three-goal hat trick of the season while Kegan Lewis aided with two goals and John Fontan – fresh off a six-week suspension – deposited two assists in Springstead’s 6-2 win at the Bears’ Den.
Central, which dipped to 2-9 overall, last defeated F.W. Springstead Jan. 6, 2015 in Brooksville, 3-2.
Since then, Springstead (4-2 county, 6-7 overall) has collected seven straight series wins.
Recapping the scoring
Though Central, in Kris Brooks and Cyndee Cason’s fourth season, has vastly improved on both ends of the pitch, the Bears struggled to open both halves of play.
After Campbell tallied his 12th goal of the season 66 seconds in the game, senior Austin Thomas fed junior Kegan Lewis for his sixth goal at 19 minutes, 2-0.
Two minutes passed before the county’s finest linkster, senior Ryan Maharaj, threaded a pass to Thomas for his fourth goal of the season, 3-0 Eagles.
Just when it seemed the Spring Hill crew might blow the match open, the Bears demonstrated some moxie.
Behind foreign exchange standout, Nugo Bakaria, who hails from Georgia in the USSR, Central roared back.
At 29:00, Bakaria lined up for a free kick just outside the scoring box, he bent the shot around three Eagle defenders and the ball skidded past keeper Mateo Crepaldi, 3-1.
Three minutes later, SHS committed a Cardinal sin fouling in the scoring box.
Bakaria took the penalty kick from eight yards out and buried it past Crepaldi and suddenly the Bears were within a goal of a draw.
But from that point on, the hosts managed one shot on goal.
To open the second half, CHS made a mental mistake and was whistled for a foul in the scoring box at 43:15.
Lewis drained the 10-yard penalty kick just under Robichaud’s grip, 4-2 Eagles.
At 58:00, Springstead’s Shane Long and Central’s Lincoln Rice tangled up. As the two players rolled around the benches’ momentarily emptied, but order was quickly restored.
Both players received yellow cards for unsporting behavior and neither played the remainder of the game.
Five minutes later, Thomas was ruled to have interfered with the Robichaud and received a yellow card.
As he vehemently disagreed with the call, he received a second yellow card for dissent. Two yellow cards equals a blue card meaning Thomas would have to leave the game permanently as Springstead played the final 17 minutes of the match a man down.
At 72;00, Fontan connected with Campbell for his second goal of the night, 5-2.
Four minutes later, the same duo hooked up. Campbell lifted a 19-yard left-footed that sailed over Robichaud and settled into the back of the nets to close the scoring, 6-2.
Fontan, who has missed most of the season after verbally arguing with an official, was on his best behavior Thursday.
“I’m glad to be back,” explained Fontan, 18. “I thought we started out a little slow, but we starting making a lot better passes.”
On what occurred when Central began its comeback, “We’re up 3-0, but you have to play smarter than what we did. We basically gave them two goals. We messed up opportunities to take that game over.”
Despite a solid effort, Lewis couldn’t console himself after chipping a gorgeous cross by Campbell across the goal mouth that should have served as his third goal.
“I still can’t believe I missed that shot attempt,” noted Lewis, 16. “I have to work 300 percent harder not to allow that to happen again. That was a great pass by Campbell.”
On describing Central, “They’re a good team,“ said Lewis. “They play us tough and they’re very physical.”
Asked the difference in the Eagles’ win coming off a narrow 3-2 setback to Dade City-Pasco, “We played a lot smarter,” identified Campbell, 16. “and passed the ball much better.“
On which of his three goals he admired the most, he didn’t hesitate, “Oh, the third one. I struck it with my weaker foot and it still went in.”
Despite the setback, Coach Brooks kept looking at the bigger picture.
“They’ve (Springstead) mercy-ruled us twice last year and tonight was a competitive match. We’ve come a long way.”
On the keys to the match, “We made stupid mistakes to begin both halves; that hurt us.”
The first-year SHS skipper Chris Leko said Thursday’s match was a microcosm of their season.
“You saw tonight where we’ve been struggling at and what we’ve done well at,” said Leko. “On one end, we’ll play well and pass the ball like were capable of.
“… On the other end, we’ll make some mental mistakes and allow them to get back into the match,” he added. “We have to settle in and get our scoring opportunities. When we do that, we’re okay.”
On Campbell’s all-around efforts, “He’s the kind of player that will take the shot when its there and give the ball up to someone else. He’s very unselfish,” shared Coach Leko. “If we take him out to get a breather, he’s the type o player who wants to be back in the match.”
Springstead returns to action Friday night hosting Wesley Chapel in a key 3A-7 match while Central entertains Nature Coast Technical at 7 p.m.
Goals – SPG: Campbell (3), Lewis (2), Thomas. CEN: Bakaria (2).
Assists – SPG: Fontan (2), Thomas, Maharaj.
Shots on goal – SPG: 15. CEN: 3.
Saves – SPG: Crepaldi (0). CEN: Robichaud (5).
Yellow cards – SPG: Thomas (2) interference w/ goalie; dissent); Long (unsporting behavior), CEN: Rice (unsporting behavior).
Blue cards – SPG: Thomas:
Red cards – none.
Records – Central (0-1-0 county, 2-9-0 overall), Springstead (4-2-0 county, 6-7-0 overall).