By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
PORT CHARLOTTE – Jeremiah Ruth’s goal in the 77th minute short circuited a Lemon Bay rally and gave the Port Charlotte High School boys soccer team a 3-1 victory Friday in a District 3A-13 contest at the Pirate Cove.
The Pirates were playing their third game in a week after back-to-back games early in the week, including a 2-1 loss to Cypress Lake. They were exhausted and it showed.
Port Charlotte saw its two-goal lead cut to 2-1 early in the second half, then had to stave off numerous opportunities by the Manta Rays, including one that hit off the crossbar.
Port Charlotte goalkeeper Hunter Cole was on top of his game, however, making several big saves, including one just moments before Ruth’s goal, to preserve the lead.
“This is a big win. Three games in a week is hard. We had to play Monday and Tuesday and we were really beat up,” Port Charlotte coach Joe Roca said. “We made some changes in the backfield to rest the guys. They were a little loose, but when we put Justin Rose back in, we were okay.”
Port Charlotte (3-1, 2-1) caught a break in the 12th minute when Lemon Bay goalkeeper Shane Garner was called for illegally touching the ball, resulting in a free kick just outside the 18. Noah Couto took advantage, finding the corner to score unassisted to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
Another misplay resulted in the Pirates second goal. This time Michael Balseca came up with the ball in front of the goal outside the box and drilled it into the empty net unassisted in the 36th minute to make it 2-0.
Lemon Bay (1-4, 0-2) hung tough and cut the lead to one as Blake Dean found the net in the 43rd minute, hit the crossbar moments later (Alex Calabes Mora hit the crossbar in the first half) and had two other great opportunities to tie the game which were stuffed by Cole.
Dean’s final scoring opportunity turned into a counter attack for the Pirates, leading to Ruth’s goal.
Lemon Bay coach Emilio Baradith lamented the mistakes, not the effort, that resulted in the loss.
“Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. We played well, but they scored on breaking balls. We were attacking all night, but one break hurt us,” Baradith said. “We’re learning and we’re getting there.”
The Pirates outshot Lemon Bay 27-16 and had a 2-1 advantage in corner kicks in what became a chippy game as five yellow cards were handed out.