By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The sliver of orange fabric, which has been strapped to his arm for only 10 games, hasn't changed Colton Koontz.
After all, there aren't many improvements the Stonewall Jackson senior can make, considering he's already the most vocal player on the Generals' soccer team, and has the heart to match his bellowing, bottomless lungs.
"It's really not a big change for me," Koontz said following Stonewall Jackson's 2-0 win over Central on Monday. "I've always kinda thought I was one of the leaders on the team."
He shook his head and shrugged: "Now I've got an armband."
For Koontz and the rest of the Generals, Koontz has essentially been a captain all season -- all that was lacking was the armband to prove it.
Koontz first wore the captain's armband on April 8 -- a 2-1 overtime win over Spotswood -- in place of senior captain Patrick Bain, who was out with a sprained ankle.
When Bain returned to the pitch a few matches later, Koontz kept the armband, and Stonewall Jackson brandished three captains: Senior Dylan Dawson, Bain and the newly crowned Koontz.
"He's the heart and soul of this team, he's the vocal leader, he really is," Stonewall Jackson keeper Hayden Miller said. "He deserves that [armband] every bit as much as Patrick or Dylan does.
"He's an amazing team captain."
Yet Koontz still maintains he hasn't changed. And on Monday, when Stonewall Jackson's passes seemed either too erratic to control, or too errant to reach their intended destinations, Koontz played no differently than he had all season.
He was vocal and physical; he was the defense's eyes, and the offense's nose.
"If I can't communicate to the midfields, he'll make sure that they drop," Miller said. "He takes all that weight off my shoulders and puts it on his."
Whenever Central made a run, Koontz, first at defensive midfield, later at center fullback, directed the defense so the Falcons' run fizzled out.
If Stonewall Jackson wasn't going to score on the other end of the pitch, Koontz ensured Central wouldn't score on his end.
Koontz and the Stonewall Jackson defense held off Central long enough for Bain, starting in the 55th minute, to bury two scores, neither of which came easily.
Playing with a four flat defense on the narrow Woodstock pitch, Central jammed as many as six or seven players inside the penalty box, ridding Stonewall Jackson of the crosses it's so wont to play from the flanks.
And with Central keeper Jordan Umstead batting away shot after Stonewall Jackson shot -- he had 11 saves -- frustrations grew on the Generals' side.
Stonewall Jackson took 22 shots, not including the handful of attempts the Generals flared far beyond the Falcons' goal. Central managed three shots, all of them hammered on goal, all of them saved by Miller.
Central took just as many corner kicks (three) as it did shots in the run of play.
But even after suffering the pain of a loss, Central can at least take solace heading into the Shenandoah District tournament knowing that it held an undefeated Stonewall Jackson side to only two goals.
"We can play physical soccer, and that's what we needed to do with them," Central coach Ted Poor said. "I think we gave them a game that they worked for."