Ed Callahan said he didn’t have any expectations entering his first year as South Dade’s boys’ soccer coach.
At the heart of what has been one of the wildest postseasons in recent memory in Miami-Dade County, the Bucs are having their best season ever.
It continued Wednesday afternoon as South Dade secured its first regional playoff win by beating Coral Park 2-0 at Tropical Park in a Region 4-5A quarterfinal.
“This is amazing, absolutely amazing,” Callahan said. “We didn’t expect to do much at the start of the season, and here we are now. It doesn’t get any better.”
The Bucs (8-7-2) are in the regional playoffs for the first time since 1999 and will face Coral Gables on Saturday in the regional semifinals. The game will likely be played at Gables at 3 p.m. unless it is moved to Tropical Park.
South Dade and Coral Gables (7-5-5) were runners-up in their respective, districts continuing a string of upsets that began with the district playoffs last week when the No. 3 and 4 seeds advanced from districts 14, 15 and 16 — the districts with Dade teams in Class 5A. Westland Hialeah, the No. 4 seed in District 16-4A, also won that championship.
The Bucs began their turnaround with a string of victories in three must-win games to finish the regular season that helped them qualify for the district playoffs. South Dade then ousted GMAC champion Sunset behind Humberto Blanco’s three goals.
Blanco’s stellar postseason continued Tuesday as he scored the first of two goals in a two-minute span that helped seal the win over the Rams (11-6-4), another underdog team that won District 15 as the No. 4 seed.
South Dade has scored 18 goals in its past six matches — more than it had in its first 11 matches of the season. Callahan believes the output supersedes South Dade’s scoring all of last season as well.
“We made a switch in our formation that was meant to emphasize our defense,” Callahan said. “The irony is that we scored more goals the past three weeks than we have the past two years I believe.”
Blanco said there is a reason for the offensive spike that resulted from a more defensive strategy. South Dade’s defense posted a shutout behind goalkeeper Carlos Villegas.
“It’s all in the counterattacks,” Blanco said. “We put more pressure on teams now, and that resulted in a lot of counterattacks up the field and more scoring chances.”
More BOYS’ SOCCER
Region 4-1A quarterfinal — Hillel 3, Palmer Trinity 2 (OT):
Even with only one senior on its roster, Hillel showed grizzled resolve to come away with a victory over visiting Palmer Trinity at North Miami Stadium.
Sophomore Salomon Serfati scored the game-winning goal in the fourth minute of the “sudden death” extra period.
The Hurricanes (16-1-1) will play Westminster Christian on Saturday in the Region 4-1A semifinals at a site to be determined.
The Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead into halftime, but saw it evaporate quickly as Palmer Trinity’s Alejandro Rodriguez-Santilli scored a goal in the 42nd minute.
Hurricanes coach Ben Magidson said the victory was the product of a lot of dedication from the players.
“Four years ago there was a lot of talent, but not a lot of structure. We changed some things around; really challenged the players and they responded,” Magidson said.