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Gillis leads R-MA boys soccer to win

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Randolph Macon Academy's Bryan Mazzola goes airborne while the ball passes him and Chelsea Academy's Liam O'Reilly looks on during first half soccer action in Front Royal on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Randolph Macon Academy's Caleb Phillips moves the ball upfield while Chelsea Academy's Liam O'Reilly moves in during soccer action Tuesday in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Stephen Boyle - sports@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Junior Benjamin Gillis played more soccer Tuesday for Randolph-Macon Academy than he did all of last year. In 2011, Gillis broke his leg five minutes into the Yellow Jackets season. He said he couldn't even bring himself to watch the team practice from his crutches, because it was too hard not being on the pitch.

"It made me sick to watch the guys," Gillis said. "The amount I've played this year is awesome already."

The Yellow Jackets' sweeper has been playing soccer since he was six. On Tuesday, Gillis scored a goal to lead RMA to a 2-0 victory over Chelsea Academy.

Gillis took a shot from midfield that arched over everyone on the pitch, including Chelsea's keeper Cameron Delafleur, but somehow managed to stay under the crossbar.

From the sidelines, R-MA coach Kerry Hurst shouted to his sweeper, "Ben, it's good."
"I was shooting, but I wouldn't say I was trying to score," Gillis admitted after the game. "I'd call it luck, I wouldn't call it skill."

Gillis and the Yellow Jackets dominated possession throughout the game and outshot Chelsea 24-4, but Delafleur kept his team in the game, making 22 saves.

"Our goalie is a sponge," said Chelsea head coach Ashley Maciag, whose team is 0-3 this year. "He's our MVP of the game."

R-MA did add a second goal after halftime, but like the first one, it would've been almost impossible for Delafleur to get to the ball. Caleb Phillips got control of the ball in the box and was able to shield the it from the defense with his body before spinning around and placing a shot in the top right corner of the net.

The win gives R-MA a 2-2 record under Hurst in his first season coaching the Yellow Jackets. Last season the team didn't win a single game, but the combination of new talent and veterans rededicating themselves to the team has had positive results so far this season.

One of the big differences this season is the pace R-MA plays at. Hurst and his team practice taking throw-ins and free kicks as quickly as possible to maximize his team's speed.

"The quicker you play the ball the more the other team has to lay back," he explained. "When you have people that are this fast you have to take advantage of that."

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