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To say it’s been a banner year for the Lely High School boys soccer team would be the understatement of all understatements.

The Trojans’ 20 wins shattered the previous school record of 14, set back in the 2015-16 season. Lely has also established a school standard with 110 goals this year against just 16 goals allowed. 

Lely (20-2-2) enters Wednesday’s Class 3A-District 14 tournament on quite a roll. The Trojans have won 12 in a row and gone 17-0-2 over the last 19 games.

As impressive as all that sounds, the Trojans know it means little to nothing if they can’t get past Golden Gate on Wednesday night in the district semifinals. A victory there clinches a spot in the championship game, and more importantly wraps up a spot in the regional playoffs.

“A 20-win season was a very nice goal and breaking all those records is nice too, but we believe as a team those are small goals,” senior co-captain Johnny Ortiz said. “Our long-term goal is reaching the state final. All the hard work we’ve put in to both practices and games, all the records we’ve set, all that stuff really won’t matter if we don’t win that game Wednesday.”

It certainly helps the Trojans will be facing archrival Golden Gate, which just happens to be one of the teams that handed Lely a loss this year. Golden Gate topped Lely 6-2 on Nov. 27. Two days later, the Trojans lost 1-0 to Naples. Lely hasn’t lost since, beating Golden Gate 2-1 in a December rematch and later tying Naples – the top seed in the district tournament.

“Those two losses were hard on us,” junior striker David Gomez said. “At that point in our season we were kind of stuck in a hole and those games pushed us even more. We were able to get out of that hole and started doing better. We gained a lot more confidence as the season went on.”

Robbie Schank, the Trojans’ 25-year veteran coach, says there’s never any shortage of motivation playing Golden Gate. It just so happens that there will be much more on the line this time.

“The good thing here is we’re playing our rival, and what has happened earlier in the year really doesn’t matter,” he said. “I really don’t expect this to be a blowout game either way. It’s probably going to come down to the last second and maybe even extra time. These two teams always bring their best when they match up. We’ve got to approach this game like the do-or-die game it is. You really need to be mentally and physically prepared for a high-intensity game from the first whistle to last whistle, bring that heart, hustle and determination you need to advance. We have to believe this is our year and we’ve got one shot to prove it or we go home.”

Lely isn’t a team that relies on just one or two superstars. The Trojans are pretty well-balanced offensively and defensively, and can even bring guys off the bench for a spark when needed.

Gomez leads the team with 27 goals and is second on the squad with 11 assists, but he’s no one-man show. Senior Alan Garcia has 18 goals and 10 assists, while junior Jesus Barrera leads the team with 12 assists while adding 16 goals. Freshman Johnathan Garcia has quickly established himself as a force with 10 goals and six assists, while senior Brisnel Dorcely provides instant offense off the bench with nine goals.

The Trojans are very good defensively, allowing just 14 goals in 24 games. That group is anchored by Ortiz and fellow co-captain Juan Avila. Sophomore goalkeeper Rob Petronzio has already become a vocal leader, helping set up the defense while providing steady work behind the net.

“We’ve got a very complete team,” Gomez said. “Everybody brings something to the table. If something’s not working, we’ve got backups who are just as good as our starters. We’re not a team that relies on just one person. The whole team gets it done for us.”

Schank said he’s had some outstanding individual players over the years at Lely, but this is by far his best team. He’s really hoping they get a chance to keep adding to the lengthy list of accomplishments they’ve already achieved this year.

“I really want to see what these guys can do in the state playoffs,” he said. “I honestly feel this is a team people will be talking about if we can just get there. But obviously, we’ve got to win Wednesday first, and it won’t be easy. I really feel like this district is like the ‘group of death’ you hear about in the World Cup. Any one of these teams can knock the other out. I don’t think there’s one team anyone can overlook here.”

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