Boys Soccer Redeems its State Title Dreams with Victory Over Palmetto


Matthew Castano

Senior Marcos Algeciras beams after beating Palmetto in the regional semifinals.

Getting past “the hump” means taking a pivotal next step to greatness. The Coral Gables Senior High boys soccer team silenced their doubters, with a 6 to 2 triumph over Palmetto High. Gables entered its second playoff matchup with one goal in mind: advancing to regional championships.

Saturday night lights illuminated Tropical Park Stadium on Feb. 11. Crimson-decorated fans paid $7 to witness history in the making. Although 2022 districts culminated with a 4 to 0 shutout versus Christopher Columbus High, Gables was determined to win as they headed into regional play.

 “After losing by four goals against Columbus I thought our hopes were dashed. I was not going to host practices because not knowing our opponent [for regionals] was difficult to comprehend and use that as motivation going forward. I told the guys…stay tuned for [Feb. 3],” coach Michel Fotso said. 

Forfeiting 14 seniors from last year’s squad, a rebuild was essential for the 2022 Cavalier soccer team. Coach Fotso recruited players from cross-country while also inserting key pieces from soccer tryouts. Faced with a mountain of inexperience, varsity boys soccer persevered to maintain a 66% win rate throughout the regular season.

Preparation precedes performance. Boys soccer trained from 2:45 to 5:00 p.m. entering the regional week. From penalty shots to situational drills, grey practice jerseys swarmed the field until Feb. 8.

“Playoffs are different than a regular season game. The stakes are higher and it’s regional semifinals. The mantra for this team is living to fight for another day. We [were] going to play like it is our last game and we will see what happens after that,” coach Fotso said.

It being my last season with the team, I would describe this season as one that is extraordinary just because of the way we got into this regional final. Knocked by Columbus in the district tournament…low expectations going against Cyprus Bay…We took it game by game and against Palmetto we executed. Fighting for another day is our mentality going into the final

— senior Marcos Algeciras

Seeking redemption for districts, Gables met the reigning state champion Cyprus Bay for regional quarterfinals in Weston, Fla. The game resembled a dogfight as both teams vied for possession and defensive control. Despite the initial challenge, Gables pulled off the upset with a final score of 3 to 1. The team advanced to its first regional semifinal since 2020.

“The bus ride home was really fun. We were singing chants and having a really good time. Especially, since it was a long way home the feeling was great. The feeling of beating [Cyprus Bay] this year without our hopes being too high was sensational. We pulled off the win and it was a great experience,” sophomore Santiago Gonzalez said.

Gables entered the spotlight with a “nothing to lose” mindset against Palmetto. Red uniforms decorated the sidelines prior to competition. Hundreds recited the pledge of allegiance before each player’s name was announced. Referees introduced the captains, sprinted to midfield and blew the whistle.

Aggressive from kickoff, ball movement clicked for the Cavaliers just 20 minutes into the game. Wingers passed the ball left and right, pressuring the Palmetto defense. Captain and junior Jordan Bueso scored an early free kick, blasting the net from afar. Nevertheless, Palmetto retaliated with a fast-paced offense. Before halftime, junior Tommaso Bruce elevated Gables to a 3 to 2 lead.

“The game against Palmetto went exactly like we wanted it to. Controlling the pace and intensity of the game while also having fun and enjoying the game. Our team was hungry and eager for the win…The team and I are hoping to go out there Wednesday night [against Doral] and have fun in such a big stage. We have worked hard to get here and it will only be right to show out for supporters,” junior Dylan Martinez said.

Frustration escalated for Palmetto as time wore away. Gables scored three more goals followed by an eruption of chants from fans in attendance. Substituting players to close the game, 6 to 2 read the scoreboard in favor of the Cavaliers. Players relished the occasion with a mix of tears and hugs. The crowd hollered “FOTSO, FOTSO” to Gables’ renowned soccer coach.

“It feels great sharing that moment [with my dad]. I see him working constantly to propel us into higher levels of competition. So it is nice to see him succeed,” junior Anthony Roles-Fotso said.

The boys soccer team will advance to regional finals for the first time since 1981. Facing a tough test on the road, support the Cavaliers as they square up against Doral Academy on Feb. 15.

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