Fort White's Joshua Sharpe (10) defends Hamilton County's Ismael Gonzalez during Friday night's game (photo by JORDAN KROEGER/Lake City Reporter).

Indians come up short on senior night

Head coach Perry Sauls announces he will step down after season

FORT WHITE — In a rather tumultuous season, Fort White played arguably its best game on senior night.

But it still wasn’t enough.

The winless Indians jumped out of the gates with a quick goal but couldn’t overcome a hat trick by Santiago Granados, who led Hamilton County to a 4-3 win Friday night.

Fort White battled back from a 3-1 deficit in the second half to even the score in the 60th minute but surrendered the go-ahead goal eight minutes later after getting called for a foul in the penalty box. Tony Gonzalez’s penalty kick was saved by Indians’ goalkeeper Matthew DiMauro, but the ball was deflected right back to Gonzalez, who was able to score on his second try.

The Indians had one last chance to tie the game in the final seconds when Andrew Hart’s shot attempt was deflected by Trojans’ goalkeeper Emmanuel Aldama. The ball ricocheted forward to Christopher Rodriguez, but his attempt was kicked toward the crossbar and caught by Aldama, triggering the referee’s final whistle.

“It was just two really good attempts, but [Aldama] did awesome today,” said senior Joshua Sharpe, who had a goal and an assist in his final home game at Fort White. “It was something else.”

The Indians (0-18-1) played with only 10 men for the fifth straight game after starting the season with 22. They’ve been through 27 players in total throughout the season, but many have quit due to the team’s struggles.

In the spirit of sportsmanship, the Trojans (7-9-1) also played with 10 men throughout the game. They outshot the Indians 21-18 in a match that was highly competitive throughout.

“These boys here have hung with it,” said Fort White head coach Perry Sauls, who announced he’ll be stepping down at the end of the season. “It’s been, for a lack of a better word, a disastrous season. I take the blame for it because I’m the coach … is it all my fault? No, but I take the blame. But they never quit. They played 10 men all game with no subs. For my last game here, I couldn’t be happier.”

Brandon Harvey put Fort White up 1-0 with a goal less than five minutes into the match after he corralled a throw-in from Hart and struck the ball past Aldama, who finished with seven saves.

Hamilton County answered with two goals by Granados before halftime, the first coming in the 15th minute and the second in the 38th.

It then only took Granados four minutes into the final 40 to finish off the hat trick, scoring again past DiMauro, who finished with nine saves.

That’s when the game got interesting.

Literally seconds later, Fort White moved the ensuing possession down the field. Sharpe sent a pass into the penalty box and Aldama came out to grab it but lost his grip on the ball.

The ball then rolled past the goalkeeper, and Rodriguez was able to put a foot on it and score into the empty net to cut the deficit in half.

Sharpe then tied the score 3-3 with a goal six minutes later, just lifting the ball over Aldama’s head on an assist from Harvey.

But a penalty doomed the Indians in the end.

“That was probably one of the best, most competitive games we have played all year,” Sharpe said. “We were playing [with 10 men] with no substitutes and we still could have won that game, and we definitely put on a show either way.”

Added Sharpe, “It was probably one of the most fun games I’ve ever played for Fort White.”

Fort White will have one more shot to get its first win of the season when it travels to play Keystone Heights in the opening game of the District 5-2A tournament Monday night.

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