BOYS SOCCER: North Port can’t stop Lakewood Ranch

By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent

NORTH PORT – North Port High School boys soccer coach Gerard Gregoire has never had a losing season. He’s on the verge of one this year.

And watching the way his team played Monday against powerhouse Lakewood Ranch, he was also on the verge of a conniption.

Numerous scoring opportunities were missed early on, and in a 40-minute span in the first and second halves, it seemed every ball the Mustangs kicked ended up in the back of the net.

The end result was a 7-3 Lakewood Ranch victory in which six different Mustangs scored, giving Gregoire plenty of reason to hold his tongue afterward.

In the beginning, North Port was able to play with Lakewood Ranch (9-1-1) and nearly scored in the first 15 seconds of the match, but Rueben Bohdanets’ breakaway shot missed wide left.

The Mustangs didn’t miss much. Ricky Yanez centered a beauty to his brother Wilmer, who placed it past Daniel Gonzalez to put them on the board 11 minutes in.

North Port (5-7-2) evened things up six minutes later as Bohdanets put a Jeremiah Simonthcik pass in the left corner, and nearly took the lead as Simonthcik had two opportunities to score, only to be denied on one of them by a great save by Josh Lavieri.

That was when the goal avalanche started as the Mustangs, whose coach Vito Bavaro benched several of his starters at the start for missing practice, scored five times in the span of 30 minutes playing time. Pablo Vargas broke the tie in the 25th minute, while Tyler Puhalovich and Connor Bezet scored in a two-minute span at the end of the half to make it 4-1.

Bezet scored again four minutes into the second half and Drew Butler added another 10 minutes later to make it 6-1 before the Bobcats, who didn’t quit, started to make things respectable.

Matt McKenzie scored in the 59th minute on a penalty kick to stop the Bobcat bleeding. Two minutes later Simonthcik was able to ricochet a shot off Lavieri to bring North Port to within 6-3.

But that’s as close as they got as Sam Stapleton-Jones closed out the scoring for Lakewood Ranch in the closing moments.

Bavaro said it took a while after a three-week layoff, but the Mustangs knocked off the rust, and did what they always do; share the wealth.

“After the first 10 minutes we started to play like we’re capable. When we put our started back in, things started to change for us,” Bavaro said. “Opponents are having a hard time keying on one player, which makes us dangerous.”

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