By Jeremy Stafford - email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- In a Shenandoah District tournament quarterfinal doubleheader at Central, the first featuring the Falcons' girls soccer team, the latter game featuring the Falcons' boys, both teams exercised differing styles of play yet reaped similar results.
In a 3-0 win over Page County, the Central girls held possession in the flanks and scored on set pieces; in an 8-0 romping of Page County in the nightcap, the Central boys connected successive passes into the heart of the Panther defense, and had eight different players score goals as a result.
And despite the contrasting styles, Central's boys and girls teams held possession far longer than their opponents, but were miffed, at times, by Page County's insistence on clogging the box with defenders galore.
Combined, Central's two teams out-shot their Page County counterparts 55-1, the Panthers' girls being the only team to manage a shot at a Falcon goal. Central boys keeper Jordan Umstead's single shot in the second half of the boys match was more offense than the Panthers' entire team could muster.
And while the Central boys spread their scoring thin throughout the team, Central's girls relied largely on the pair of goals scored by sophomore forward Theresa Barela.
After a scoreless half, Barela barreled toward the far post on a free kick from forward Katie Bennett. Hunched parallel to the ground, Barela scored a header in the 44th minute.
And just like that, the goals poured out for Central, with Barela scoring again in the 59th minute, and Bri Burroughs scoring off an Erin Vasta free kick in the 64th minute.
"I only thought I was going to make one," Barela laughed, "and I was happy with one -- but two is really good, too."
Barela, a forward who's more than capable of playing at center and outside midfield, has made a living this season beating her marks down the right flank and feeding crosses to Bennett and Katie Philpott inside the box.
With as many as eight and nine Panthers clogging the box, though, Philpott did more wrestling with Barela's crosses than finishing.
Barela crashed the goal on a deflected shot from Philpott to score her second goal.
"That's definitely our best chance," Rice said of Barela's sideline runs, "and then trying to hit Philpott, who's just got a nose for where to be.
"And then hitting Theresa, because she's just absolutely fearless -- she'll run through a wall."
And while the goals came more simply in the boys' match, it was the final goal of the night, and senior forward Michael Pierce's first of the night, that seemed nearly unattainable.
Central scored its first goal six minutes in, three goals 17 minutes in, and five goals by the end of the first half.
With the Falcons up 7-0 after 60 minutes, Pierce still hadn't scored, and with the slaughter rule set to end the match on Central's next score, Pierce's opportunities were dwindling.
He sent shots off the right post and off the legs of Panthers keeper Daniel Rhinehart. In the 68th minute, Pierce dribbled into the six-yard mark and tried to squeeze a shot near-post, but the ball eked out of bounds.
Finally, in the 72nd minute, Pierce cut into the six, danced left, then right, and tucked a shot under the crossbar.
His only goal of the night ended the match eight minutes early.
"It's pretty remarkable that we had two or three people score their first goal tonight, so it was obviously a full team effort," Pierce said. "But it definitely felt good to get that last goal, and I was trying pretty hard for it."
Freshman forward Stephen Hamrick scored his third varsity goal Friday; Thomas Currie, Andrew Cardwell, Alex Alvarez and Hunter Phillips also scored for Central.
Both the Central girls and boys will travel for their district semifinal matches Tuesday, with the girls heading to Buffalo Gap and the boys trekking to Riverheads.
Neither Central team has beaten its semifinal opponent -- the girls suffered 1-0 and 4-3 losses, respectively, to Buffalo Gap, while the boys lost to Riverheads 2-1 before tying the Gladiators, 0-0.
"The team has really been improving all season long, that's all I can ask," Central boys coach Ted Poor said. "When we started out, our goal was to be playing for the district championship -- we've got one more game that we have to win and we're doing it."