Nature Coast shut out Central 3-0 Thursday evening Feb. 2, 2023 to claim the Class 4A, District 6 championship game at their own field. In the 5th minute of the first half, The Sharks scored the first goal of the game; however, the next 60 minutes would prove to be a hard-fought battle between both teams. Nature Coast would go on to pull away late in the second half, scoring two goals to put the game away.
“Not the outcome we wanted, but we prepared, and I’m proud of my guys. Although we lost today, in my eyes, they are champions,” an emotional Head Coach Chief Mike Santiago of the Bears said. “If I had an opportunity to change anything, I wouldn’t change anything. I think the kids came out and did exactly what we wanted.”
When asked about his thoughts on the game, Head Coach Sal Calabrese of the Sharks said, “They (Central) pressured very well, and it was a little hard for us to maintain possession of the ball when they pressed so hard, but the last 10 minutes we kept pushing, pushing, pushing and we got the last two and put them away.”
Coach Calabrese had nothing but praise for Goalie Cole Pretorius, who had 11 saves in this championship match. “The kid played really well. He gets a lot of credit for what happened tonight.” Regarding key players in the game, Coach Calabrese said, “It was a whole team effort. They all played very well.”
On Central’s side, Coach Santiago highlighted, “John Thawng…all my seniors, Brandon Strong, Ricky Engley, Eli Murphy, Eddie Gonzalez…he definitely had a great game, great season, he did a good job.”
The Nature Coast Sharks beat The Space Coast Vipers 2-1 on Wednesday, February 8 in the regional quarterfinals. They lost the regional semifinal to Bishop Moore 4-0 on Saturday, Feb. 11. The Sharks end their season with a very respectable record of 16-5-2.