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By Shaun Broy - firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson's boys soccer team certainly didn't make it look very easy against Central on Wednesday night.
The Generals made it look hard -- really hard -- as they scratched and clawed their way to a well-earned 2-0 victory over the Falcons.
The Generals just flat-out looked to be the team that wanted it more.
Stonewall (10-2 overall, 8-0 Shenandoah District) was playing its fourth game in a row without offensive powerhouse Juan Luna, who looks to be sidelined for the rest of the season due to an injury, which made their victory seem even more improbable.
The Generals took control right from the start, creating more quality opportunities to score than the Falcons. Central also had its opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net, but was unable to get the job done.
The Generals were beating the Falcons to ball, winning the ball in the air and on the ground. The Generals played the entire match in a full-field press -- wherever the ball was, there was a Stonewall player already there or one sprinting towards it.
After a scoreless first half, Stonewall finally struck gold in the 48th minute of play off a direct kick awarded just outside the 18. That's when sophomore Eduardo Juarez stepped up to take the kick and sent the ball sailing into the upper right corner of the net to put the Generals on the scoreboard.
The Falcons (8-2-1 overall, 5-2-1 Shenandoah District) saw their best opportunity of the night go to waste when sophomore Stephen Hamrick lofted a kick past Generals goalkeeper Eustergio Cruz-Cortes with 23 minutes left to play. Cruz-Cortes was caught outside his net, but the shot scraped off of the near post of the goal. That is as close as Central would get to putting the ball in the net. Cruz-Cortes had eight saves on the night en route to the shutout.
"I thought we came out better than we did last time," Falcons coach Ted Poor said. "We gotta put the ball in the back of the net. You can't win if you don't score."
The Generals notched their second goal on the night when sophomore David Dodson connected with senior captain Brandon Jones, who stepped right into the pass from Dodson and clipped the ball, sending it curving into the back of the goal. That score put Stonewall up 2-0 with 18 minutes left to play in the game.
"David Dodson worked his butt off to get that ball to Jones," Stonewall coach Nate Hissong said.
"We've been working so hard to get ready for this game," Jones said. "We wanted this game and it came down to just desire. We just wanted it more."
The Generals dug in their heels and hung on for the victory, which put them all alone a top the Shenandoah District standings with four games left to play. It's a position that not many, including themselves, thought the Generals would be in at this point of the season.
The Generals swept the Falcons on the season.
"I give credit to Stonewall, playing without Luna. He is probably the best player in the county," Poor said. "They were still able to play well."
The Generals outshot the Falcons 13-9 on the night.
"It's quite a thing for a team as young as we are to accomplish what we have so far. They're just so focused, they have fun and enjoy it," Hissong said. "I wouldn't say it clinches the district title for us, but it definitely makes it hard for us to lose it."
The Generals, who know all too well that their fate is in their own hands, host Riverheads on Friday.
"We've been saying the whole season that we've just got to take it one game at a time," Jones said.