By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- When star player Patrick Bain left Monday's game just 10 minutes in, it would've been easy for Stonewall Jackson's boys soccer team to panic.
After spending the past few weeks healing a sprained ankle, the Generals' talented midfielder aggravated the injury on a tackle before the 10-minute mark, sending him to the sidelines for the rest of the game as a precaution. If that weren't enough to rattle Stonewall, Clarke County's offensive attack seemed to jump at Bain's departure, firing off more than 15 shots in the first half alone and immediately putting the Generals on the defensive.
But the Generals didn't panic. Instead, they were patient. They knew that just because Bain could only watch from the sidelines, there was still talent on the field, and it would be only a matter of time before they would show the Eagles it didn't matter who was out of the game.
Then, in the 77th minute, Stonewall's patience paid off. With the score tied at a goal apiece, midfielder Caleb Golladay sprinted with the ball down the right sideline and into the corner of the field. The senior chipped the ball into the box, where a cluster of red and orange jerseys scuffled to retrieve the pass. With so much confusion, no single player could put a solid foot on the ball as it caromed around in the box like a pinball.
Suddenly, forward Brandon Jackson had an opening. The ball bounced just in front of his foot and the junior struck. His shot sailed into the back of the net, giving Stonewall the one-goal lead with only minutes to play. His strike proved to be the deciding goal on Monday as Stonewall defeated Clarke County, 3-1.
"It was so weird because I kept telling myself every single time I got the corner kick or a free kick, 'This is going to be the one,'" Jackson said. "Whether it's me or not, we're going to score a goal. We've been working so hard. And right there it was just like, 'We got it.'"
From the opening whistle it was clear the two teams were playing for more than just a mark in the win column -- there was pride on the line. It took less than a minute for both teams to show their aggressiveness, as Bain and Clarke County's Stephan Bodkin clashed at midfield. As Bodkin dribbled the ball upfield, Bain grabbed a handful of his jersey, allowing him to catch up as speedy Bodkin lost possession. Seconds later, Bain and Bodkin went for a free ball and as Bain looked away, Bodkin hip-checked him onto the ground. The bad blood had already started.
The Eagles were aggressive throughout the match, particularly after Bain left in the first half. Stonewall keeper Hayden Miller had to continuously fight off Clarke County attacks, while the Generals tried their best to give Miller some cushion with which to work with the help of defender Jose Garcia and midfielder Juan Flores. Before the game both Flores and Garcia announced their intention to play soccer next season at Potomac State College.
"Both of those kids played an amazing game today," Stonewall coach Nate Hissong said. "Jose was put under a lot of pressure and did a real good job of not letting a lot of balls through. Flores was amazing. I don't know how he did it either, because he's not 100 percent out there."
With Garcia and Flores' help, Stonewall's attempts succeeded in the 25th minute as Golladay fired a shot inside the Eagles' box, giving Stonewall a 1-0 lead at halftime.
Just 10 minutes into the second half, however, Clarke County's persistence on offense paid off, too, as sophomore Conor Shendow provided the equalizer. Denis Villanueva sent the ball soaring into the penalty box off a corner kick, where it also bounced around at several players' feet. Shendow was able to gain control, however, and blasted the ball into the net to tie the game.
"We're a work in progress," Clarke County coach Andrew Porter said. "We continue to grow and get better every game and there are some things we can take away from this game, both positive and things we need to work on."
With the game knotted at one, both teams continued to play hard and each had its chances to take the lead. Then with just three minutes remaining, Jackson took advantage of his opportunity, putting the Generals ahead by one. Two minutes later, the Generals picked up their insurance goal as Golladay recorded his second assist of the game, passing the ball to Thomas Trapnell for a breakaway goal, sealing the win for the visitors.
"We work so hard," Jackson said. "We get up, have an attack and we get back and defend. Everybody's up and back and it was just everybody chipping in. You look at the paper and people will think Stonewall walked all over them or something but that wasn't the case. It was a tight game the whole time."