By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG -- Sophomore forward Roberto Cardoso Jr. continued his habit of scoring winning goals for the top-seeded Stonewall Jackson Generals against fierce competition from Stuarts Draft on Wednesday night.
Cardoso scored both of the Generals' goals for a 2-1 victory over second-seeded Cougars as the Generals captured their fourth consecutive Shenandoah District tournament championship.
It was Cardoso's nimble feet that also scored the game winners in the Generals' 4-3 double OT win at Stuarts Draft on April 17, and their 2-1 home victory over the Cougars in the regular-season finale.
The Generals (17-0 Shenandoah District, 18-1 overall) have gone undefeated in district play over their four championship seasons.
Cardoso's first goal came from 10 yards out in the 10th minute, on a right foot kick from the right-middle to nestle into the left side of the net. Junior forward Jonas Jacuinde had the assist.
The eventual game-winner came off of Cardoso's left foot from 16 yards at left-center, in the 22nd minute, on an assist from junior forward David Dodson. Cougars goalie Sebastian Fannan appeared to think the ball was going to clear the crossbar and didn't jump to try for a deflection. Instead, the shot arced downward to easily sail under the bar and into the net.
"I just came out playing a good game, I guess," Cardoso said. "Hard work in practice always pays off. David [Dodson] and Jonas [Jacuinde] always give good passes, so all I need to do is kick it in."
Thunder delayed the start of the match for 55 minutes, then the weather improved through most of the first half.
The Cougars' goal came on a speedy attack by junior forward David Barrett, who intercepted a pass between Generals defenders as keeper Eustergio Cruz-Cortes stayed back, and Barrett appeared in a flash from the top of penalty box to boot in an eight-yarder in the 62nd minute.
"[The Cougars] sent a through-ball and two of my defenders ran after it, I was going to come out, but I decided not to because it was still outside [the penalty box]," Cruz-Cortes said. "[Defender Jacob] Armel kicked a long ball, but the receiver couldn't reach it and [Barrett] took advantage."
Less than a minute after Barrett's goal, thunder was heard again, and the rain grew in intensity, with 17:21 remaining on the game clock, requiring another 30-minute delay.
Stonewall Jackson athletic director Todd Fannin took advantage of the delay by conducting the district soccer awards ceremony in the gym.
The Generals' junior defender Eduardo Juarez was named Player of the Year, and coach Nate Hissong received Coach of the Year honors.
When play resumed, in a steady moderate rain, Stuarts Draft (10-3-4) seemed have recharged its batteries to a higher voltage than did Stonewall Jackson, as the Generals had made only four shots (all on goal) in the first 25 minutes of the second half, matching the Cougars' offensive production.
With forwards Barrett, Adam Blaine and Zach Sauder getting good set-ups over the final 15 minutes, keeper Cruz-Cortes had to make four excellent stops to keep the Cougars' shots outside the net.
"I was ready for them," Cruz-Cortes said. "They were always trying to chip me since they scored on me in our first game against them, and I'm short. So that's what they tried on the one they kicked high, but it didn't work because I was staying on my line."
"Great positioning, and he came off his line well to deny them that counter-attack," Hissong said. "Cruz is pretty experienced and he did a great job.
"This is actually my last year [with the Generals]. I'm moving my teaching career to Harrisonburg High School, which is closer to home, and my daughter will be attending there.
"It's really nice that the guys have gotten the regular season and district championships four years in a row. Monday's going to be a great game. Manassas Park is the defending state champion and knocked us out last year, 7-1. They're an excellent team. I hope we can hang with them."
The Generals and Cougars both advanced to play in the Region B tournament. The Generals will host Manassas Park at 6 p.m., on Monday in the quarterfinal round.