PALM HARBOR — Coach Brooks McCormick heard last month's Thanksgiving tournament win over Palm Harbor University was the first in team history. Considering the divergent paths of the two programs over the past decade-plus, that would probably surprise no one.
Apparently the Tornadoes aren't ready to revert back to the perennial status quo.
Clearwater won its second consecutive match against PHU on Wednesday, beating the Hurricanes 2-1.
“I've been told when we beat them at the Thanksgiving tournament was the first time ever,” McCormick said. “This is huge for the guys mentally.”
After beating PHU 1-0 last month, the Tornadoes needed to come from behind this time. The 'Canes struck first in the 35th minute when Matt Corbett snuck a left-footer inside the far post. Channing Pezet assisted on the goal after controlling a cross with his chest and dumping off to Corbett.
PHU appeared to be heading into halftime with the 1-0 lead, but Clearwater knotted the match up with only four ticks remaining on the clock. Luis Ocana finished the late run by burying a through ball delivered off the foot of teammate Donovan Price.
Clearwater wasn't quite able to carry that momentum into the second half, watching PHU's attack repeatedly pressure the net for the first 10 minutes of play.
The game-winner came shortly after weathering that initial PHU barrage. Clearwater was granted a free kick that Price put on frame from about 25 yards out. PHU keeper Jack Gallagher saved the initial attempt but couldn't corral a rebound that Akeem Wynter poked in.
Wednesday's competitive match was physical from the start, though things grew increasingly chippy into the second half. That culminated with the double-yellow-card ejection of a PHU player after Edward Huapaya went down with a left-knee injury. The Hurricanes drew six yellows over the final 40 minutes alone.
The ejection, forcing PHU to play a man down for nearly the entire second half, came less than five minutes prior to Wynter's game-winner.
Nothing seemed to be going the Hurricanes' way from that point forward. A free kick in the 70th minute found Lucas Decker on the back post, but his clean header found the back of a teammate rather than the Clearwater net.
Minutes later, Jacob Harris put a header of his own on frame from outside the 6, but Tornadoes keeper Muamer Kurtovic was well-positioned for the save.
PHU (8-5-0) will try to get back on track on Senior Night next Wednesday against Dunedin.
“Hopefully we'll come together next week, but I just think this was unlucky today more than anything else,” said first year 'Canes coach Wipoj Huse.
The Tornadoes (9-3-2) get back to Class 4A District 10 play on Friday night when Palmetto High comes to Clearwater.
40' – Luis Ocana – Goal (Donovan Price - Assist)
50' – Akeem Wynter – Goal
35' – Matt Corbett – Goal (Channing Pezet – Assist)