By STEVE JACKSON
RUSKIN — After six straight wins to open the season, Coach Dominic Coco’s boys’ soccer got knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by Gaither 1-0 in Tampa. However, the Longhorns came back strong on their home pitch Dec. 14 to triumph over the Armwood Hawks 3-0.
The Longhorns could not buy a goal in the shutout loss to Gaither, which shares the 4A District 9 lead with Bloomingdale, just ahead of second place Lennard.
The Longhorns connected with the net three times in the Armwood victory. José Luis “Chicha” Garcia booted 2 goals and Julio Rodriquez kicked in 1 for the final score against the visitors from Seffner.
Now, the Longhorns continue their run for the playoffs against another District 9 first-place squad — Bloomingdale. After the holiday break, the Horns travel to Valrico for the Jan. 8 conference game at 8 p.m. The last time the two teams clashed was in the district playoffs last season when the Bulls took an exciting 3-2 overtime win over the Longhorns.
This season both Lennard and Bloomingdale appear headed to the playoffs again. The Bulls, under Coach Mike Lankford, are 9-2 overall and 4-0 in district, having lost only to Steinbrenner, twice, 7-1 and 1-0. The latest victory for Bloomingdale was an 8-0 rout over Tampa Bay Tech.
After compiling a 10-7 overall and 4-2 district record in his first season as head coach last year, Coco has his squad playing at a high level again. Most of the Horns’ scoring is coming from senior Gerardo Gonzalez and sophomore Chicha Garcia.
The Longhorns started the season with a 5-1 victory over East Bay. Wins followed over Riverview, Spoto, Tampa Bay Tech, Durant and Brandon prior to losing to Gaither. The Longhorns have registered 25 goals and exhibited strong defense with only 4 goals scored against them by foes.
Following the Bloomingdale game, Lennard has games Jan. 11 and 15 in Tampa against King and Hillsborough. The Longhorns then close the regular season at home with 8 p.m. matches Jan. 18 versus Freedom and Jan. 22 against Newsome.