For at least three more days, the Community School of Naples boy’s soccer team will still be in contention to win their program’s first ever state championship.
With 11 seniors on the roster this season, the Seahawks – playing in the 1A Regional Finals for the second year in a row Tuesday night – head coach Eric Miles didn’t have to do much “coaching up” prior to kick-off.
A picture from last year’s State Semi-final game against Miami-Hillel, a dramatic 3-2 overtime loss, provided all the motivation his veteran squad needed to get back.
“I didn’t mention ‘win’ the entire time during my pre-game talk tonight,” Miles said after his team’s convincing victory in front of the Naples crowd.
After beating Out-of-Door Academy 8-0 in the opening round of the playoffs Feb. 1, and Saint Stephen’s Episcopal 2-1 last Saturday night, CSN (25-1-1) returned to their home pitch and knocked off St. Petersburg Catholic (15-2-1) by a final score of 4-1 six days after their postseason run began. The win earned them a spot in Friday night’s upcoming 2017 FHSAA Boy’s Soccer 1A Championship semi-final contest.
“We still have the newspaper clipping where it’s a picture of [goalkeeper] Chris [Childs] and [defender] Matty [Eklund] on the ground and they have the title and all that. That’s really, all the way from the preseason all the way to the season, that’s been the main goal.”
On the sideline for the last time as head coach on the CSN field, as Miles will step down from his position at the conclusion of the season, he saw all three of his senior captains find the back of the net in the most meaningful game of the year yet.
Even more special, senior Brendan Miles, his son, scored the Seahawks’ first two goals only eight minutes apart, in the third and 11th minutes of the opening half.
“That’s my boy,” he said, unable to hold back his proud tears.
“I love these guys. We’ve spent a lot of time together and I treat them all like they’re my sons. I just told the boys to go out there and play. It’s their home crowd, senior year, just defend it and play for each other. And they did, so I was really, really pleased.”
Scoring his 23rd and 24th goals of the season Tuesday night, Miles – who only had seven career goals entering his final campaign – got CSN off to the quick start they needed by putting pressure on the Barons’ defense, his coach and father detailed.
After outshooting the visitors 7-3 on goal in the first half and taking a 2-0 lead into halftime, fellow senior captain Aaron Harris received a lengthy throw-in in the 58th minute of action, turning toward goal and firing his squad’s third goal of the contest. Then, in the 69th minute, senior captain and all-time school goal scorer Nate Nascimento made it a 4-0 Seahawk advantage.
Two minutes later St. Petersburg Catholic finally broke its offensive shutout, placing a low liner past CSN’s Childs on what was only the Barons’ fifth shot on goal.
But the night belonged to the hometown coach and his kids, especially Brendan.
“I was coaching club soccer 10 years before Brendan was born. I was coaching high school soccer when Brendan was 2, 3, 4, 5…It feels special [to win this one] because he’s a senior and on the big stage. It feels good,” Miles added to the emotional tilt.
For the rest of his lineup, who he also tabs his sons – each and every kid on the team – Miles said his last season calling the shots has been about embracing the moment.
And Friday night will be that moment for redemption, he hopes. They’ll face Maclay on Friday night at 7 p.m.
“It’s just about execution and having fun. By this point in the season they’ve had 70 or 80 practices, all the games, all the pregame meals, just all the extra stuff, so it’s fantastic. I’m happy for the boys. All I ask is that they work hard and have fun.”
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