By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Clarke County came into Wildcat Stadium and soared away with a victory over host Warren County on Wednesday night. The Eagles jumped ahead early and used a stingy defense to keep the Wildcats scoreless until stoppage time during the second half in a 4-1 win.
"Our defense has been getting the job done," Eagles coach Andrew Porter said. "Sweeper Dylan Cherrix, left back Cody Scheaffer, and right back Chris Smalley have been playing very well. I told the guys defense is the foundation of our team. They may not get a lot of recognition in the papers, but if were still playing down the road in June, it will be because of them."
Clarke County wasted little time to light up the scoreboard, striking quickly in the first half. Less than two minutes into the game, the Eagles penetrated into Wildcats territory. Just when it seemed Warren County had cleared the ball, Tim Walraven stepped up and sent a floating kick over the outstretched hand of Wildcats goalkeeper Drew Hildebrandt to give his team a 1-0 lead.
"They are a very athletic team and they have numbers," Wildcats coach Pam Cornell said. "We haven't got used to playing yet and that early goal set the tone."
Shortly after, at the 30:52 mark, Walraven scored again on a nearly identical play but benefited from a little luck. Again, Walraven's shot sailed high. This time, however, the ball clanked the crossbar and then bounced off of the back of Hildebrandt for the score.
With Warren County struggling to move the ball offensively in the first half, it was Clarke County that stayed on the attack. The Eagles stretched their lead as the half neared a close when Josh Petti sent a kick across the box and under the diving goalkeeper to take a three-goal advantage and essentially put the game out of reach.
When play resumed after intermission, the Wildcats altered their strategy changing to a different formation. The move appeared to work as Warren County found itself moving the ball much better. Unfortunately for them, despite finding themselves with more opportunities, the Wildcats could not convert them into scores.
"We changed our formation to a 3-5-2 in the second half," Cornell said. "I think we kept playing and the switch created more scoring opportunities. We are using these nondistrict games to try something new that we think will work to help us prepare for district play."
Several times early on, Wildcats teammates Sean Gimber and Tim Pressler took aim at the goal, but it was Eagles goalkeeper Zac Rogers who came up with the stops. Gimber managed to record the lone score for his team on a quick free kick that caught the Eagles off guard during stoppage time, but it was too little, too late.
"Our guys played hard," Porter said. "It was sloppy at times, but we are still finding ourselves. We got ahead early and our defense carried us and I am pleased with their play and the outcome."
Clarke County improved its record to 3-1 with the win as the Eagles continue the strong start to the season. They are gearing up for Bull Run District play, which begins in two weeks.
"There is a lot of good competition in our district," Porter said. "But I believe we can compete with any one of those teams. We just have to keep playing as a team."