Galloping for goals: Mandarin boys soccer off to the races in Florida's scoring list

·3 min read
Mandarin forward Antonio Mancinotti (11) prepares to shoot as Bolles midfielder Luke Santamaria (5) defends during a high school boys soccer game on Dec. 7. Mancinotti has scored 21 goals in 10 games for the Mustangs.
Mandarin forward Antonio Mancinotti (11) prepares to shoot as Bolles midfielder Luke Santamaria (5) defends during a high school boys soccer game on Dec. 7. Mancinotti has scored 21 goals in 10 games for the Mustangs.

Life with Antonio Mancinotti in the front line means there's something a little special about Mandarin boys soccer this winter.

A certain style. A different style.

"I want them [opponents] to think about the Antonio Style," the junior forward said.

The Antonio Style in 2021 means goals — a whole lot of goals. And the best part for Mandarin: Mancinotti is far from alone.

With a 9-1 record and 52 team goals already, the Mustangs are galloping away from the pack — and taking aim at a potential deep postseason run — as the high school boys soccer season gets set to flip into 2022.

Mancinotti, who netted 10 goals as a freshman and 11 as a sophomore, has already tallied 21 in the Mustangs' 10 games with a mix of speed, confidence and scoring flair.

For longtime Mandarin head coach Jason Cooley to think of another Mustang with a comparable scoring rate, he has to go back to late-2000s striker Jean Vega, who led Mandarin's attack to the state final four in 2010 and later went on to play college soccer at Flagler.

Boys soccer Power Poll: High-scoring Mandarin charges to top

But that's only part of the story. At Mandarin, the numbers aren't what matters most. The Antonio Style isn't just about Antonio.

"He could score more goals, there's no doubt... Last week he could've had a hat trick on a penalty kick and he gave it away to Pedro [Alarcon], because he wanted his teammate to get another goal in the box score," Cooley said. "That kind of epitomizes what our team's about."

Like a gray cloud, or a red-and-yellow offside flag, the fact has loomed over Jacksonville soccer for decades: In more than 40 years of Florida High School Athletic Association soccer competition, no Duval County public school has won a state championship.

But not many of those teams can claim an attack comparable to the forwards of Mandarin, swamping opponents beneath a tsunami of goals from the season's start.

Seven goals against Fleming Island. Three goals on Dec. 7 in a 3-0 shutout at Bolles, which had outscored its opponents 24-0 up to that point. Four each against Nease and Fletcher last week.

Mandarin forward Pedro Alarcon (9) controls the ball as Bolles midfielders Miles Rivera (12) and Ashton Ashchi (11) defend during a Dec. 7 game.
Mandarin forward Pedro Alarcon (9) controls the ball as Bolles midfielders Miles Rivera (12) and Ashton Ashchi (11) defend during a Dec. 7 game.

Nobody in Jacksonville boys soccer is scoring quite like Mandarin. Will it be enough to end one of the city's most maddening high school droughts?

The Mustangs left no doubt about their abilities last year, winning the Gateway Conference championship and knocking out state-ranked Spruce Creek in an overtime thriller in the first round of the playoffs. But it all came to an end in the Region 1-7A semifinal against Lake Mary.

"After that loss, all I was doing was working hard," Mancinotti said. "I was like, 'Next year's going to be different.'"

It's been different so far. The dynamic burst of Mancinotti, lightning quick on the outside and devastating when shooting from distance, meshes nicely with the strength and aerial power of senior Alarcon, who has scored and assisted five apiece.

"We have a really good connection," Alarcon said. "I know what he's going to do, where I should go to get the second ball, the first ball. So with that connection, it's easy to score goals."

Add the energy along the flanks from sophomore Jack Eddy and freshman Tyler Tilden, plus the ball-striking accuracy and vision of junior midfielder Adis Mesic, and it's not difficult to see why the Mustangs' season is looking up — way up.

"Our midfield is just looking for chances to put balls into space where they can go and be dangerous," Cooley said. "This year, our midfield is really quick. It's little, but it's quick, and we win so many balls in the midfield."

Mandarin is also faring well in the MaxPreps ranking formula, a variant of which will determine seeding for the FHSAA playoffs in February. Through Monday, the system ranks the Mustangs No. 11 in the Sunshine State.

"They're fun to watch," Cooley said. "I just enjoy watching them, and that's the greatest part."

Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Antonio Mancinotti, Mandarin boys soccer makes high-scoring start

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