Flagler Palm Coast coach Noah Braun is very matter of fact.
And so, as his players clutched the District 2-5A trophy after Friday’s 2-1 win over Spruce Creek and flaunted it to their fans, Braun got right to the point.
“Ugly,” he said to describe his team’s play.
FPC (15-2-2) scored two first-half goals and hung on with another stifling defensive performance to knock off Spruce Creek and advance into the Class 5A state playoffs with the momentum of a win — avenging a 1-0 loss to Spruce Creek in last year’s finals.
FPC will host Mandarin 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Class 5A regional quarterfinals — another chance for the Bulldogs to seek revenge. FPC lost to Mandarin, 3-0, in the same game on the road last season.
“The honest truth is it’s hard to win,” said Braun, “especially against a team like Spruce Creek. I didn’t like the mentality. I thought we should have kept the ball a bit better and moved it around more. We have the quality to do it, we just have to get the players to show a little leadership and be disciplined.”
FPC took a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute on a brilliant piece of individual play by senior striker Johnny Osorio. Midfielder Nate Monsanto played a through ball, but two Creek defenders cut it out. Osorio didn’t give up on the play, however, and stole the ball, got into the 18-yard box, cut back and then slotted the shot.
The electric crowd went crazy as Osorio ran toward the stands to celebrate with his teammates.
FPC took the one-goal lead into halftime, but the score changed just four minutes into the second half.
Osorio switched the field to Drew Jones, who did the rest of the work. Jones beat a defender and then uncorked a blistering shot from about 15 yards away that roofed the top of the net to give FPC a 2-0 lead.
Just four minutes later, though, Spruce Creek (17-7) got on the board.
Both teams battled for the final 34 minutes, but Spruce Creek couldn’t bag the equalizer.
The win marks FPC’s first district championship in boys soccer since 2009 — which was also the last time both the boys and girls soccer teams won the district championship in the same season.
But Braun envisions more for his team. And they know that.
Naturally, his post-championship message to his players was simple: “This can’t be the highlight.”
Wednesday will be another chance to continue the journey.
“We’re just going to keep on hammering the things we’ve been talking about all year long,” Braun said. “Tonight was another game, another opportunity — a meaningful game, which they need to be playing in. It helps them deal with all the emotions.”
Braun also applauded the lively atmosphere in the stadium Friday night, and he hopes Wednesday’s game is even rowdier.
— Follow @aobrien7 on Twitter for live updates during the game.