There were plenty of distractions for Gainesville and Gulf Breeze in their boys soccer region semifinal matchup Saturday at Citizens Field.
There was a nearly two-hour delay due to lightning and heavy rain, and most of the Region 1-6A semifinal was played with rain blowing in and winds over 30 miles per hour.
Freshman Dylan Fitzpatrick scored for the Hurricanes in the seventh minute, and junior goalkeeper Elijah Witt made that stand up as Gainesville edged Gulf Breeze 1-0 to advance to Wednesday’s regional final against Niceville.
Second-seed Gainesville (16-0-1) will host that game as well after Niceville knocked off top-seed Chiles (Tallahassee).
Saturday’s kickoff time was moved up from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. earlier in the day, but the weather was at its worst with torrential rain and lightning. The game finally got underway around 8 p.m. and Gainesville coach Basil Benjamin said his team was ready to go.
“We made sure the team was relaxed while we waited around to hear yea or nay on playing the game, ” Benjamin said. “We just didn’t fool around and were prepared to play.”
Fitzpatrick scored the only goal of the game off a free kick 10 yards out right of the goal near the sideline. The cross was hit into the box in front of the goal and, when Gulf Breeze was unable to clear it, Fitzpatrick kicked it in.
Gainesville didn’t have many great scoring opportunities after that, but Witt made the goal stand up.
“It was a tremendous game from him,” Benjamin said. “He was our player of the game.”
After Fitzpatrick missed a header wide in the 13th minute, the next best opportunity for the Hurricanes came in the 64th minute when senior Ryleigh Peyers took the ball near midfield, drove down the field and took a shot that went just wide left from 20 yards out.
Gulf Breeze (19-3-1) kept the pressure on. Senior Thomas Haddock missed scoring opportunities in the 69th and 72nd minute. The Dolphins best chance came with less than two minutes left, when they hit the post off a header on a ball bouncing around in front of the goal.
Gainesville came in ranked No. 3 in 6A and No. 5 overall statewide according to MaxPreps while Gulf Breeze was No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
“In terms of just the intensity they (Gulf Breeze) plays with and their ideas as well as the quality of players, that is the best team we have played so far,” Benjamin said.