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Arnold teams travel to central Florida in advance of their state title matches

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 10:04 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Two rather big road trips are under way, both starting Tuesday morning at Arnold High School. Both Arnold teams are in their respective 4A state championship matches. Remember no Arnold team, no team from Bay County in fact, has ever won a soccer state title.

Both now in central Florida in advance of those matches. Ladies first, the girl’s team loading up their bus just before 8 Tuesday morning. They hit the road just after 8, stopped for lunch in Lake City, and then finished the trip into Deland, site of the state finals. The Lady Marlins at 13-4-2, take on Cardinal Gibbons out of Fort Lauderdale, at 11-2-1, Wednesday at one eastern time at Spec Martin Stadium, a municipal stadium down there. Once the team arrived at its hotel, and before it ventured out for a team meal together in Deland, head coach Larry Cecchini told us he spent some time reminding the girls about hydrating, which he believes was a factor in the team’s last match, and will be again Wednesday.

“The real thing I care about is as long as they are hydrating.” coach Cecchini said. “That’s really the point I was trying to drive home with them. It’s supposed to be warmer here than Panama City Beach. That kind of hit us a little bit in the last game around halftime, so we are really making an emphasized point around getting enough hydration.”

As for the boy’s team, head coach Jona Hammond and his guys loading up their bus just before ten Tuesday morning. They have an extra day to spare before their 4-A state championship match against Gulliver Prep out of Miami, that comes at one eastern Thursday. The boy’s team is staying in Daytona Beach, about half an hour northeast of Deland. The Marlins are undefeated heading that way, 24-0-2, Gulliver Prep is 9-5-3, and the defending 4A state champs. Again no team from Arnold or Bay County has even won a soccer state championship, so this too is historic. I spoke with three of the team’s seniors before they hopped on the bus, they all had the surreal sense about them, almost not believing it was happening! “I can’t, never thought we’d make it here.” senior Tristan Gandy told us. (Question) Why do you say that? Just in the past years we’ve had great teams and just haven’t been able to pull it off, this year it finally happened.”

His fellow senior captain Jay Marino felt likewise. “I never thought this day would come. It’s been a dream to play in the state championship, since I started high school soccer. And it’s just awesome, and I never thought the day would come.”

Another senior, Malik Rhoden put it this way. “I can’t believe this day has happened. I’m very excited for this day. This amazing team, and staff support that we have. I can’t believe like we are finally here!”

The boys team will work out sometime Wednesday morning, then head over to Deland to watch the girl’s match. Julia Daniels is down with the teams and will continue to have reports from central Florida on these historic matches for Arnold and Bay County soccer.

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