ORANGE PARK, Fla. – When the calendar ends in an even year, you can bet on the Fleming Island boys soccer team being in the mix for a state championship. The 2016 season is no different.
After winning the state championship in 2012, the Golden Eagles were runners-up in 2014, and now in 2016 they will play for the 4A state title on Saturday against Doral from Miami. The even-year streak almost was lost in 2015 when Fleming Island lost to Atlantic Coast in the regional semifinals, ending their season. The juniors on that team remember that loss and now as seniors, they are using it as motivation.
"I know last year we thought we would be in this situation but it didn't happen," said senior midfielder Mark Suhrer. "This year we kind of came in more humble and knew that we had to work harder to get here."
Getting here has not been a problem for the Golden Eagles. Head coach Frank Pontore has taken his team to the playoffs in each of their 14 seasons as a program. He admits that keeping practice as normal as possible this week has been a challenge, but his team knows what is at stake. Pontore has seen a lot as the only head coach in the history of the school and says that each season there is a moment or a game that you can look back at and say, "that's was the key." His players know exactly when that moment was this season.
"I think it was the goal against Oakleaf in the district game," said junior forward Marcus Murphy. "I think that fired us up, I know it fired me up personally. But I mean, from the beginning of the year we just really wanted that ring and I think that moment really fired us up."
Fellow junior Reed Davis agreed.
"When districts started, our first game against Oakleaf was the key. We just knew from then on it was business. We had to win. I think that's what started us focusing on what we really wanted."
Fleming Island goes for the second boys soccer state title in school history Saturday at 1PM.