Arnold battles Leon for state soccer supremacy

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Although most have Saturday off from work, Arnold soccer hit the field for another practice.

No rest when there's a big game coming up. The one on Monday night doesn't have high stakes, but it may be the best regular season game in the state.

The Marlins host Leon out of Tallahassee, a match-up between MaxPreps' top two teams in Florida.

The MaxPreps rankings for the nation put the game in even greater perceptive. The Lions are unbeaten at No. 3 with Arnold slotting into No. 13, a combined record of 24-1-1 between them.

This game wasn't originally on the schedule, but a few of the players know each other through Florida United club soccer. Numbers were exchanged and coaches got together and set it up.

Why not go through the extra effort? To be the best, you have to beat the best.

"We're in different classes, so we're never going to play each other in the playoffs," Arnold head coach Jonathan Hammond said. "I think they wanted a challenge to see where they were and we definitely want the challenge. It's a win-win for us."

The game counts, but not towards standings or playoff seeding because Leon is in 4A and Arnold is in 3A. There are only benefits to this game, even if one team takes an "L" in the process.

"If we win the game, we know where we are and we know what we're capable of. If we lose the game, we know what we need to work on. I don't think we'll play a team that good possibly all season. That's going to give us a lot of confidence moving forward."

The game gets underway at 6 p.m. Monday night at Gavlak.