SEBRING - In the four years that James Ashley has been coaching Lake Placid's boys soccer team, the Green Dragons have never beaten Sebring twice in one season.
That all changed Monday night at Firemen's Field.
The Class 2A Dragons beat the Class 3A Blue Streaks by a resounding score of 3-1 to improve to 13-0-2 on the season. Sebring, meanwhile, dropped to 7-8-1.
Despite an undefeated record and a No. 32 ranking in the state of Florida, Ashley was quick to mention that his team has loftier goals.
"Our mission is to be district champions," he said. "And that is what we are preparing ourselves for."
From the outset of the match, Lake Placid's swarming defense pressured Sebring all over the field. The Dragons booted a myriad of shots at the Streaks goal, netting one that was negated by an off-sides penalty. Eventually, they broke through, netting a score at the 13th minute.
Lake Placid scored on a free kick from 35 yards out on the left side of the field. The ball bounced off the chest of a Sebring defender in front of the net as Lake Placid's Carlos Santana-Bravo charged the ball and kicked it into the back of the net to give the Green Dragons a 1-0 advantage.
Sebring's defense responded and the Streaks held off the Dragons to go into the break down one goal.
Lake Placid scored its second goal eight minutes into the second half when the Dragons were awarded another free kick on the right side of the field about 30 yards from goal. The Sebring goal keeper, Brandon Bower, blocked the first kick, but did not secure it as it bounced off his hands in front of the goal.
Lake Placid forward, Diego Mireles, alertly booted the rebound into the left side of the net to give Lake Placid a 2-0 lead.
Yoyi Gomez scored the Dragons third goal about five minutes later when he hammered a shot from midfield that slipped past the diving Sebring keeper to increase Lake Placid's lead to 3-0.
But the Streaks wouldn't go down without a fight.
Continuing to probe Lake Placid's bend but don't break defense, the Streaks tenacity finally paid off midway through the second half, when Filemon Chavez set up Jarred Lang for score, and Lang promptly headed the ball into the net to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Though Lake Placid controlled the ball for the last 20 minutes of the match, Sebring let scoring opportunities slip away as Lake Placid held on for the victory.
Despite the loss, Sebring coach Keith Bowyer was pleased with his team's effort.
"It was a much better game than we played Friday," Bowyer said, referring to the Streaks 8-0 loss to Okeechobee. "Tonight was an exciting match and I believe it could have gone either way, but Lake Placid was here to play. We had our opportunities.
Lake Placid's offense was pumping on all cylinders Monday night, booting 26 shots on goal. Even though the Dragons shot to score ratio leaves more to be desired, Ashley isn't worried.
"Sometimes that happens, some nights we finish," he said. "The last time we played Sebring we won 7-1 because we were able to finish our chances. We did not do a very good job at finishing and sealing the deal tonight."
"The end result is a win and we are happy with it."
Monday's match was Sebring's last regular season game. The Streaks begin the 3A-District 11 tournament on Monday against Poinciana. The match will be hosted at Auburndale and begins at 7:30 p.m.
Bowyer added that the break leaves time for improvement.
"We need to work on our finishing," he said. "We need to work on making sure we control that midfield and our quick short passing game."
"That is how we are successful and that is what we need to get back to. We have four practices to work on those areas and the key is to peak at the right time."
Lake Placid has two more games this week before the Dragons travel to Frostproof for the 2A-District 10 tournament. Friday they travel to Class 1A Moore Haven before heading down Okeechobee on Saturday. Lake Placid will attempt to complete its unbeaten season against a formidable Class 4A Brahmans team that currently sports an 11-2-1 record.