Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Raiders Have Right Team Chemistry; Camaraderie, Coaching, Help No. 2 Ranking

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Raiders Have Right Team Chemistry; Camaraderie, Coaching, Help No. 2 Ranking

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Kindland, Clay County sports writer

The Orange Park High School boys soccer team has beaten all but two of its opponents, and first-year coach Paul Tomaro says there are probably several college teams the Raiders could hold their own against as well.

"They're playing at a level that high," said Tomaro, who has guided 16-2 Orange Park to a No. 2 ranking in the latest Class 6A state poll. "They love the game. They eat it up."

Tomaro, who played for the Jacksonville Cyclones with St. Johns Country Day School girls coach Brad Schmidt in the mid-1990s, knew he inherited a strong team from Frank Pontore, who left to build a program at newly opened Fleming Island High this year.

What Tomaro didn't know was that each and every player would be 100 percent dedicated to making this year's team one of the school's best ever.

That's saying a lot, given Orange Park's history. In the past four years alone, the Raiders have won four district titles and a state championship to go with a runner-up finish in the state Final Four.

Similar results could be in store for this year's team, which has outscored its opponents 69-14, including 12 shut-outs by goalkeeper Lloyd "Mule" Thurman and his back-up, German exchange student Bjoern Seeger.

Seven of the goals Orange Park has relinquished came in two games during the prestigious Student Sports Invitational in Tampa, where the Raiders finished second after beating then No. 1-ranked Miami Sunset in a preliminary match.

Tomaro's team also beat Montevista and Tallahassee Leon, but lost 4-0 to Lake Brantley before dropping a 3-1 decision to Valrico Bloomingdale -- now No. 1 in the Florida Sports Writers Association poll -- in the five-day tournament's championship game.

Senior forward Simon Enright, whose father, Timothy, was president of the Cyclones when Tomaro played, says he thinks the Raiders have a chance of beating Bloomingdale if the two powerhouses meet again in the postseason.

"Definitely," he said. "We didn't play our best game against them."

ONE TEAM, ONE GOAL

Such let-downs are rare, says Mike Fields, an assistant coach for the Orange Park junior varsity and varsity teams. …

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