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Mariner boys beat Cape in Region 3A-4 soccer showdown
February 11, 2019

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By PETE SISK

news@breezenewspapers.com

The Mariner Tritons have been here before.

Now the question is: Can they take it to another level, the state Class 3A boys soccer semifinals?

Mariner (21-1-4) defeated archrival Cape Coral 3-1 Saturday night on the Tritons' home field, and earned the right to be at home again Wednesday for the Region 3A-4 championship.

"Knowing that we're going to play Wednesday is good," Tritons' coach Martin Cardenas said. "We're just glad that we get the chance to play again."

The Seahawks concluded their season with a record of 19-7-1.

"They brought it today," Cape coach Daniel Gross said. "I don't think we brought our 'A' game today. But it was a heck of a season."

Mariner's opposition Wednesday, Plantation American Heritage, defeated the Tritons 4-1 in last year's Region 3A-4 final after Mariner had downed Cape in the semifinals.

American Heritage's Patriots (14-5-1) defeated District 3A-15 champion Pembroke Pines Charter (18-5) on Saturday.

Saturday's battle between Cape Coral and Mariner was one more chapter in what has been the best soccer rivalry in Lee County for many years.

Leo Perez, who scored twice and added an assist, got the Tritons on the board early in the match when Cape goalie Dylan Linares couldn't get a handle on the ball and let it trickle through his legs at the 34:15 mark.

The Seahawks would respond with 14:24 remaining in the first half. Jacob Jiminez's direct kick from about 25 yards out was saved by Junior Ochoa, but the goalie couldn't hang onto the ball and Juan Parra fired it home for the equalizer.

The scored stayed even at 1 until 24:15 remained, when Esteban Orjuela got the ball from Perez and scored what would prove to be the game-winner. Perez blasted a shot from about 20 yards out from the left of Linares with 13:10 remaining to ice the Tritons' victory.

It was the usual hard-fought match between two neighborhood rivals, filled with players who have been squaring off against each other since first taking up the game of soccer.

Taking advantage of a rare Saturday night match, a large crowd loudly supported both sides.

"They make it interesting," Cardenas said of the Seahawks. "Their intensity. Got to give them all the credit. They come out and they're intense.

"They put a lot of pressure on us. Our kids just have to weather the storm."

In the end, the more experienced Tritons got the best of the Seahawks.

"I thought in the second half we did a much better job," Cardenas said. "I rested Nikola (Salopek) for a little bit and then he came in and completely changed the game. He managed to get to a lot of balls and kept possession. So that really helped us."

Still, it was a memorable season for the Seahawks. A 19-win season was capped by an upset of Lely in the first round of the playoffs, an emotion-draining marathon that Cape won on penalty kicks.

That came after all the drama of facing Mariner in the District 3A-13 title match.

The emotional overload may have drained Cape Coral.

"We can't use that as an excuse though," Gross said. "Mariner's played just as many games as we have. They're a great team, a well-coached team."

Still, Gross admitted that all the drama of the Lely game might have had an effect.

"I assume it did," Gross said, but "I believe Mariner played a tough game. I don't want to use any excuses.

"It was a great season for us. We're a young team. I'm proud of how far they got. I feel sad for my seniors. They gave it everything they can. But it was a great season. We didn't expect to get this far.

"There's not much you can do," he continued. "You're going to win some, you're going to lose some."

Should Mariner get past American Heritage, the Class 3A state semifinal would also be held at Mariner against the champion of Region 3A-2 (either Daytona Beach Seabreeze or New Port Richey River Ridge).

That match is scheduled for 7 p.m. this coming Saturday.

The Class 3A state championship match is set for Saturday, Feb. 23, in DeLand.

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