Coral Gables may not have entered the past couple of seasons as highly-touted as some of the nearby Miami-Dade County perennial boys’ soccer contenders.
But for the second year in a row, a confident group of Cavaliers is headed to the regional semifinals.
Led by a pair of goals and an assist by Michael Hernandez, Coral Gables defeated Coral Reef 3-1 in a Region 4-5A quarterfinal at Tropical Park. The Cavaliers (7-5-5) will host South Dade Saturday in the regional semifinals likely at their home field at 3 p.m.
In what’s been a topsy-turvy postseason among Dade’s large school teams, the Cavaliers continued their run that began as the No. 3 seed in the district. Gables ousted Columbus in the semifinals before falling in penalty kicks in the final to rival Coral Park.
But the Cavaliers, who played without two starters suspended for disciplinary reasons, recovered Tuesday with two first-half goals to take control of the match against the Barracudas (10-6-2).
Hernandez and Julian Grela delivered the scores. Grela’s came first off an assist by Hernandez. Grela later scored off a corner kick.
Coral Reef answered with 25 minutes left in the second half when Miles Whiting angled a corner kick that bent right into the goal untouched to cut Gables’ lead to 2-1.
But on a through ball from Mariano Gonzalez, Hernandez delivered the knockout punch with a goal with 11:32 left.
“We’ve had our knocks here and there, but these kids have kept fighting,” Coral Gables coach Joe Hudak said. “We tell them all the time just put the ball in play near the goal and good things will happen.”
• Region 4-5A quarterfinal — West Broward 3, Miami Beach 2: A beautiful corner kick/header into the top left corner of the net from the combination of Alexander Rodriguez to Nicolas Perez in the game’s 63rd minute snapped a 2-2 tie and proved to be the game-winner for West Broward at Milander Stadium.
It marked the first regional win for the Bobcats (12-7-3), who will now travel to Cypress Bay on Saturday night for a regional semifinal contest and a chance to avenge a 1-0 overtime loss to the Lightning in the district final last week. The win also avenged West Broward’s 2-1 loss to Miami Beach (12-5-3) in the same round a year ago.
“Amazing,” said West Broward coach Rodrigo Frank. “Nicolas is the shortest kid out there on the field so who would’ve ever figured he’s going to be the one to go up and head it in but that’s how soccer is sometimes. A great win for us and we’re looking forward to moving on.”
The first half was a relative scorefest as each team put two goals in. West Broward took the lead in the 13th minute on a Nicolas Guevara goal to go up 1-0.
Then came a wild flurry in which three goals were scored in a five minute span. Beach tied it 1-1 in the 27th minute when Tomas Moffat knocked in a loose ball off a rebound from the keeper, who could not handle an Alan Diaz direct kick from 20 yards out.
The Bobcats went back up 2-1 three minutes later on a perfectly executed corner kick from Santiago Santiestevan that found Guevara who headed it into the top left corner. West Broward’s lead lasted just two minutes though when the Hi-Tides executed their own corner kick, Diaz centering and Christian Sanchez popping it in tying the game at two.