Gulf Coast never gave Fort Lauderdale a chance. The Sharks scored in the first four minutes on a goal by Carlos Paz from a cross by Clayton Curvin.
Fort Lauderdale tied it at 1 when Ralph Joseph scored with his left foot off a pass from Rodne Michel in the 26th minute.
But it would be all Gulf Coast (18-3-3) the rest of the way. The Sharks will play the Steinbrenner/Forest winner in the Class 4A state championship next Saturday in Melbourne. Fort Lauderdale’s season ended at 17-8-1.
“After all that happened, we gave it everything we had. Hats off to Gulf Coast,” Fort Lauderdale coach Benito Clerveaux said.
Sylvester Szczesniewicz gave the Sharks the lead for good in the 29th minute when he scored on a header on a perfect pass by Owen McCorkle.
Then Curvin scored in the 33rd minute on a pass from Andre De Greef for a 3-1 lead going into the half.
Fort Lauderdale had been in that exact position the past two games; it trailed 3-1 to both American and Martin County before coming back to win in overtime and penalty kicks.
And for a few minutes early in the second half, it looked like the Flying L’s might get back into the game. They were aggressive to start the second half while it appeared the Sharks were becoming more defensive. However, Fort Lauderdale couldn’t get on the board again.
“We can’t continue to kill ourselves like that and then try to come back into the game. My guys know we can’t come from behind like that all the time,” Clerveaux said.
Gulf Coast would come back with a quick counter attack when the Flying L’s would push hard, but only to keep Fort Lauderdale a little defensive. Then the flood gates opened.
Gulf Coast scored in the 68th minute, then again on a free kick in the 73rd minute and finally in the 79th minute.
“Once upon a time I was a small coach trying to make a name for myself and also had a team with something to prove. I think we accomplished that goal. They know who we are now,” Clerveaux said.