By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — Five games into the season and the Bobcats were already faced with a must-win game.
After dropping their first two district games of the season, North Port High School couldn’t afford to lose another against Braden River Tuesday night.
Reuben Bohdanets certainly knew it and he played like it, scoring a hat trick to lead the Bobcats to a 5-1 win over the Pirates in a District 4A-11 contest at home. Thomas Sousa and Jeremiah Simonthcik also scored goals for the Bobcats, who led from the fifth minute on.
“Scoring early cures a lot of our woes, for sure,” North Port coach Gerard Gregoire said. “In our first four games we’ve had chances early and haven’t taken them, and with a young team we were scored on and didn’t respond the proper way, but we are creating chances so as a coach I’m happy with the chances. Finally we’ve broken through and had a good scoring game and hopefully it’ll give us some momentum to continue the rest of this week and get us on the right foot.”
Bohdanets was one of those players who wasn’t taking as many chances as Gregoire would’ve liked, but he changed all that on his very first shot of the game. Less than five minutes into the match, Bohdanets took a pass from Camilo Arango and scored passed Braden River keeper Parker Grier to give North Port a quick 1-0 lead.
The senior struck again in the 25th minute when Grier saved a shot by Arthur Bohdanets, but Rueben was there to follow it up to double North Port’s lead. Bohdanets put the game away with his third goal in the 55th minute on an assist by Anthony Perez.
Bohdanets took his coach’s message to heart and took chance after chance. In fact, he had four other shots that nearly found the net as well.
The Bobcats outshot the Pirates 15-11 and have won back-to-back games after dropping their first three of the season.
“It all got to our heads after losing three games,” Bohdanets said. “North Port didn’t really have that in a long time so that finally got to us and we all wanted it really badly. We just started clicking, especially for me after all these games of missing [shots], I guess I really just wanted to score. It motivated me.”
Bohdanets’ brother Arthur was ejected right after his third goal when Arthur picked up his second yellow in the 56th minute. That forced North Port (2-3, 1-2) to play the final 24 minutes a man down but it didn’t matter very much as Braden River (3-1-1, 1-1-1) couldn’t manage to score minus a penalty kick by Michael Villarante.
Villarante’s goal was North Port goalkeeper Daniel Gonzalez’s only hiccup of the night as he finished with five saves. After dropping their first two district games of the season to Venice and Palmetto, the Bobcats feel like they may now be on the right track to hopefully defend their district title.
“My first initial things were we’re going to compete and defend our title, and with a young team starting off the way we did it wasn’t good, but those were the best teams in our district that we lost to and we’re still figuring things out,” Gregoire said.
North Port pushed the lead to 4-1 with a goal by Sousa via a free kick just outside the penalty box in the 63rd minute and Simonthcik put the finishing touches on the match with a goal in the 77th minute. It was a tough night for Grier, who finished with five saves.