Triton boys edge Gators 2-0 in cross-town battle
The Mariner High School boys soccer team came out on top of a well-fought match against Island Coast Monday night in an early season cross-town battle.
After a scoreless first half, the Tritons (2-0-0) came out hot in the second and added an insurance goal to take a 2-0 road victory from the Gators (1-1-1).
“It was a physical game, especially on the defense end,” said long-time Mariner head coach Martin Cardenas.
The Tritons are coming off of a season that came just one goal short of a state championship. This year, though they may be a bit younger and without a few key seniors, the end goal is still the same.
Seniors Nicco Gerke and Sean Paul Negron (both important pieces of last year’s team) led the way for Mariner on this night.
Just 30 seconds into to the second half, Negron finished off a dazzling run from Gerke, who busted down the left side and centered the ball to a waiting left foot.
In the minute 59, Marcel Tovar came up right side and centered to Marcos Grimado, who fought with an Island Coast defender before neatly passing to Gerke coming in the back door, burying his chance.
“I’m feeling good,” Gerke said after the game. “We have a lot of young players but we’ve been working on improving and it’s good to see us come together.”
Cardenas was pleased with his performance.
“Nicco is doing a great job for us in the midfield right now just covering a lot of ground,” Cardenas said.
Gerke was the Tritons’ orchestrator on this night — setting up attacks, directing the flow of the ball and communicating well with his teammates.
“He’s an animal every night,” Cardenas said. “It’s a plus and a minus with me, because I want him to play a very important role for us which is at attacking center-mid and he should be the brains of the operation. We’ve got four other guys in front of him we want him to direct and it can be hard when he’s all over the field. Sometimes he can’t help himself — he has so much energy. That’s just his nature. I’m not going to try and slow him down until I see that it’s hurting us — which right now it’s not.”
Despite the loss, Island Coast head coach Craig Bullock was proud of the way his team stepped up to play a talented Mariner team. The Gators opened the season with a victory over an always-competitive Cape Coral club.
“For us, we want to go against the best to test ourselves and see what we’re made of,” Bullock said. “I think our guys came out strong tonight. We’re not looking for moral victories — we’re looking to build a program who can compete with anybody. We took another big step towards that tonight.”
Island Coast attacker Jim Midy was the standout for the Gators on the night. The fastest player on the field, Midy attempted to use his speed on counter attacks but just came up short on finding the back of the net.
“He’s got a lot of talent, he’s got a lot of everything,” Bullock said. “He’s one of those guys the team feeds off of no matter what’s going on.”
The key for Mariner to repeat last season’s success is to develop its younger players before playoff soccer arrives.
“We’re very young,” Cardenas said. “”But they’ve got guys (with experience) that are doing a really good job of continuing what we’ve done in the past. I think they’re being really good about nurturing these younger guys. I feel good even though we’re young.”
Negron said the seniors have taken on a mentor role with a team that starts two freshmen.
“We’re trying to bring them in and teach them all of the things we’ve been doing for years,” Negron said. “Hopefully we can make it as far as we did last year, but that all comes with hard work and we work hard every day. That’s the end goal but right now we’re focusing on just one game at a time.”
Cardenas said the goal is to keep things basic and let their talent work when it needs to.
“We’re playing a simple game this year,” Cardenas said. “But, we’ve been doing a really good job so far this year. The young kids have a lot of energy, a lot of speed. They don’t always make the best decisions, but it’s going to come.
“They’re quick, they’re good with the ball, they’re energetic and they want to win.”
The players trust they can once again make history for their school.
“We have a positive outlook right now,” Negron said. “We’re all adapting. We still need to work on some aspects of our game, but it’s looking good.”
— Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj