Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct stats and Tuesday’s match-up.
It’s been quite the season for the P.K. Yonge boys’ soccer team.
The Blue Wave (16-2-1) ended up playing 19 games instead of 25 due to COVID-19, but they’re still enjoying their best record since the mid-2000s.
“This season has been great as a number of players have stepped up their game and are playing at an all-time high level,” said head coach Jose De Leon. “This is our best season in a long time, and everybody knows all the hard work and sacrifices we have made to be at this level. Therefore, all of us understand that we must keep it up and not lose this incredible momentum.”
De Leon attributed the success to several factors.
“The training has been intense, and all the players have adopted a growth mindset and a tough competitiveness,” he said.
Junior Roberto Hurtado is No. 1 in the state in points accumulated and goals scored (47), while sophomore Simon Nogerol is No. 6 in the state and No. 1 in Class 3A in assists.
That’s a solid 1-2 punch on the pitch. Plus, they’ve been very good defensively.
Sophomore Pedro Caltabellota has 192 steals and is positioning himself as one of the best CDMs in the area, while senior goalkeeper Jamey Bennett is No. 43 in total saves in the state and No. 8 in Class 3A.
Despite losing games to quarantine, the Blue Wave never lost a bounce in their step. In their first game after quarantine, they defeated Newberry on the road, 9-1 on Jan. 19, and haven’t lost since.
“The fact that we were able to recover conditioning quicker than expected and maintain some level of fitness and chemistry despite the quarantine was a huge accomplishment and testimony of the kind of program we have built,” said De Leon.
The Blue Wave came back and won all four post-quarantine games by a combined score of 23-2. They maintained the No. 1 seed in 3A-District 4 and the No. 2 spot in 3A-Region 1.
There are a number of factors why the Blue Wave have been so good this year.
“Many people may say it is because we got two new transformational and impactful players this season, but many of them forget we lost three times the amount of those kind of players that played for us last season,” De Leon said. “Therefore, our success goes beyond who might have joined the team this year. Our coaching sets the tone and runs a tight but fun ship. We are a family.”
The top-seeded Blue Wave will play No. 4 seed Fort White at Keystone Heights in Friday evening’s district semifinals (5 p.m.). The Indians eliminated No. 5 seed Newberry, 5-2, on Wednesday.
“Clayton (McPeak) is an excellent coach and has developed a nice program at Fort White,” De Leon said. “He is teaching the kids to play good soccer, to the ball, to the net, good defense. We are very excited to play against a team and a coach we respect.”
P.K. Yonge won the first meeting, 7-1, on Dec. 7.
“On our end, the training has been hard, consistent and with an ambitious goal to accomplish,” he said. “We are ready.”
The winner of Fort White-P.K. Yonge will play either No. 2 Crescent City or No. 3 Keystone Heights for the district title.
The district championship match is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.