By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
CAPE CORAL — For much of the game, it looked like it was going to be easy for the North Port High School boys soccer team against Mariner.
But then the wheels nearly came off and the Bobcats had to scramble, much of it a man down, before finally emerging with their first win of the season, a 3-2 victory Tuesday in a non-district matchup.
“It’s good to get off the schnide. Hopefully we can get some momentum and some wins after the break,” North Port coach Gerard Gregiore said. “We have three in a row coming up so I hope we can rattle off some wins.”
Jeremiah Simonthcik scored a hat trick and nearly scored a fourth to give the Bobcats (1-3) a 3-0 lead early in the second half.
Simonthcik got things going in the 11th minute, heading Camilo Arango’s corner kick past Mariner goalkeeper Anthony Rodriguez to give North Port a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Arango also set up Simonthcik’s second goal, putting it on his left foot to blow past Rodriguez to make it 2-0. His third goal, tucked into the far corner off a Reuben Bohdanets pass, gave the Bobcats what seemed like an insurmountable lead.
But the Tritons staged a comeback. Pedro Reyes got his team on the board in the 53rd minute on a corner kick that bent into the corner past North Port goalkeeper David Kulakevich.
“We’ve been playing out wide as much as we can and slotting it in the middle, and we started putting them in,” Simonthcik said.
Ten minutes later, Reyes passed to Esteban Orjuela who lofted it over an over-committed Kulakevich to cut the lead to 3-2.
To make matters worse, Bohdanets was sent off in the 68th minute with a blue card (meaning he was ejected, but won’t be suspended), forcing North Port to play a man down.
Mariner fought hard for the equalizer, but wasn’t quite able to make good on the rest of their six second-half corner kicks or the long throw-ins from Steven Langdale, which were like corner kicks.
Simonthcik was put in center back to help with defense, and the strategy paid off.
“We made it hard for ourselves, especially after we went down a man. We have to be more organized with that situation,” Gregiore said. “Jeremiah had his breakout game, but when we started getting down, we said it was the best time to put him in center back, and he held it for us.”