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By Shaun Broy -- firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- Good defense can separate the good teams from the best ones and can create very confident play during close games. This was the case as the Clarke County boys soccer team demonstrated solid defensive play that ultimately fueled their offensive production, making all the difference in the Eagle's 2-1 victory over Manassas Park on Friday night.
The Eagles took to the pitch at Wilber M. Feltner stadium, looking to take sole possession of second place in the Bull Run District with a win over the Cougars.
Manassas Park came into the match with a half-game lead over Clarke County in the district standings, after their upset win over district leader George Mason on Wednesday.
It was clear from the start of the match that both teams had come to play their best soccer. The two teams traded scoring opportunities early on in the game and played with intensity. Then the Eagles began to take control of the match by playing a solid possession game of soccer. When the Cougars did take possession of the ball and made a run toward the Eagles' net, they were met by a pesky Clarke County defense that allowed few opportunities for Manassas Park to penetrate.
The Eagles used their solid defensive play to transition quickly into offensive threats all night long. Clarke County used this solid transition game to trigger their first goal of the night. A Manassas Park defender went to clear the ball out from in front of the goal, but his kick made impact with Eagles senior Jon Moya, who nailed the ball into the back of the net in the 14th minute.
"I think we are playing better every day," Moya said. "We need to play 120 percent every game and we can beat anybody. I am real excited because we are playing more like a team than we have been so far this season."
The Eagles continued to trade runs up and down the field with the Cougars until the 29th minute, when Cougars junior Allan Oliva intercepted an attempt to clear the ball by the Clarke defense. He stepped into the path of the ball about 30 yards out from the goal and sent a low shot past Eagles goalkeeper Alex Sefton that bounced into the goal, tying the score. Sefton had seven saves on the night for Clarke County.
Clarke County quickly shook off the odd score by Manassas Park and responded in the 31st minute, when junior Connor Shendow sent a solid pass to senior Josh Petti, who took full advantage of his opportunity just five yards out from the goal and tapped it into the net, putting the Eagles up 2-1 with less than nine minutes to play in the first half.
"We worked really hard through the week on our defense," Eagles coach Scott House said. "I thought defensively we were making it real hard for them to get through us. We are going to continue to work on our defense, we were struggling with some things defensively earlier in the season, but they did a heck of a job with it tonight."
In the 46th minute, Shendow collided with Manassas Park keeper Carlos Vasquez as they both were going for the ball. The referee sent Shendow to his bench briefly with a yellow card, and Vasquez ended up with an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the game.
The Eagles continued to play with the same intensity and determination with which they started the game and didn't let up until the final whistle.
The Eagles outshot the Cougars 10-9 on the night.
The Eagles won the game and snatched second place in the Bull Run District standings from the Cougars, and if Clarke County can take care of business during their final regular-season game against Madison County, they will own the second seed going into the district tournament.
"I feel real good with where we are at going into the district tournament," House said. "If we play our game, I think we'll be all right, if we play like we did tonight."