FROSTPROOF - Inside the snug confines of Frostproof's Faris Brannen Stadium Wednesday night, McKeel Academy probably felt like Lake Placid had doubled its roster. The score certainly seemed to reflect that, as the Green Dragons thumped the Wildcats 4-1 to advance to the boys soccer Class 2A-District 10 championship game.
The Dragons (15-2-1, 6-0-2 2A-10) play Mulberry (13-4-5, 3-2-2) tonight at 7 p.m. for the district title. Both the district champion and runner-up advance to the state playoffs, but up for grabs is a chance to host a regional quarterfinal match.
Even with Thursday's dominating performance, Ashley still feels that there's room for improvement.
"I want to see us play as one united 11," he said. "I feel like in the past two or three games, we've been kind of falling apart on that. We've had bunches where we've gotten good combinations from three players. I want it to be one rock, 11 players, playing on everything - where we don't have blotches of this group running but then this bunch stays behind."
Ashley knows team unity will be vital in capturing the district title.
"To win this tournament, for us to be one of these next two teams, it's going to be a blood bath. Everyone has to be committed to each other."
The Dragons burst out of the gate to start the match, scoring at the fourth minute when Diego Mireles took a cross from Osvaldo Orduna and booted it past McKeel's (4-12-1, 1-5) goalie. Undaunted, the Wildcats answered back with their lone goal at the 11th minute. Daniel Zuniga took advantage of Lake Placid's miscommunication on defense and tapped the ball into an unguarded net.
Ashley said those kind of defensive breakdowns can't happen this late in the season.
"It was one of those things where our defender thought our keeper had it, so he peeled off. But then our keeper thought the defender had it, so he backs off. Then you're looking at each other saying, 'it's your fault, it's your fault.' But really, it's the whole team's fault."
Lake Placid retook the lead at the 18th minute when Carlos Santana-Bravo sent an Orduna pass into the far right corner of the goal.
"Carlos' goal would have made a highlight reel on any field at any level," Ashley said.
Just before the half, Yoyi Gomez gave the Dragons a commanding 3-1 lead when he blasted in a perfect lead pass from Orduna. It was his third assist of the match.
"Osvaldo's ability to assist says a lot of his willingness to do everything it takes to win," Ashley said.
McKeel put up a valiant effort in the second half, but the Dragons resolve was simply too much to overcome. Gomez added to the Wildcats woes again at the 55th minute, when he scored his second goal of the night after the ball brushed off of the finger tips of McKeel's keeper and rolled softly into the net.
"McKeel didn't go down easy," Ashley said. "They fought all game and managed a 1-1 tie early."
Lake Placid went 1-0-1 against Mulberry in the regular season, beating the Panthers at the Phosphate Bowl by one goal (3-2) and playing to a 1-1 draw at Roger Scarborough Memorial Field.
The Dragons goal before the season started was to finish as district champions. Ashley, a former soccer play himself, is acutely aware of the hurdles his team will need to overcome tonight to claim district superiority.
"We want to be district champions. We want to be able to host a playoff game," Ashley said. "We know it's not going to be easy and we know it's not going to be handed to us. It's going to be a battle."