Generals claim first regional championship
By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG — Stonewall Jackson boys soccer coach Caleb Golladay doesn’t need a history lesson to know what the Region B has done in the Group A state tournament over the last 15 years.
Golladay — a former Stonewall player himself — is well aware that the best of the Region B has gone on to win 11 of the last 14 state championships, including the last four titles. It’s for that reason that Stonewall’s 3-1 win over visiting George Mason in the Region B championship match on Friday was extra special for the first-year coach and the rest of the Generals squad.
Well, that, and the fact that Friday’s regional championship was the first ever in the history of Stonewall’s boys soccer program.
“This is one of the biggest accomplishments this soccer program has ever had,” Golladay said. “I know we’ve advanced to the state tournament and everything, but this right here — Region B is probably the strongest region in boys soccer in Virginia. To come out on top of this and coming out with the trophy, it’s just such a great feeling.”
The victory guarantees a home game for the Generals (22-0) in next Tuesday’s Group A state quarterfinal match, where they will play Region A runner-up Northampton.
The Generals were admittedly a little nervous entering Friday’s match with the Mustangs (18-3-1), as the Bull Run District champions have had one of the most successful boys soccer programs in recent history. But Stonewall overcame the early-match jitters to put on what Golladay called the Generals’ most confident display of soccer all season.
Stonewall settled into its own midway through the first half, and after a few near-misses early in the match, Generals senior David Dodson scored the game’s first goal when he gathered a through ball by teammate Jonas Jacuinde and ripped a shot from 18 yards out into the right side of the net to give Stonewall a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute.
The goal came as a bit of redemption for Dodson, who had missed on a shot from within five yards of the goal midway through the first half.
“We had a few in the first half that we got unlucky on. I had a wide open shot that I sent over the crossbar, but we never stopped, and that’s what’s so good about this team,” Dodson said. “I got down on myself for missing that wide open shot, and then I just picked myself right back up.”
The Generals held an 11-6 shot advantage in the first half, but things were much more even in the second half as George Mason — who tried relentlessly to beat Stonewall downfield on long balls in the first 40 minutes — began to get some better looks at the goal.
The Mustangs even appeared to tie the match on an apparent goal by junior Cole Hinson in the 48th minute, but the score was waived off as Hinson was called offside. George Mason struggled all match to capitalize on scoring chances, and several times the Mustangs could only watch as their shots seemed to graze the goal posts before rolling out of bounds.
George Mason was also thwarted several times by Generals keeper Ryan Zerkel, who made five saves, including four big ones in the second half.
“I thought despite the score it was a fairly even match, we just didn’t finish all our chances and their goal keeper came up with some huge saves,” Mustangs coach Frank Spinello said. “And they scored when it mattered most.”
Senior Juan Luna, coming off a four-goal performance in the regional semifinals, scored two goals in the second half to keep Stonewall in control of the match.
His first came in the 58th minute, when he took a pass from Roberto Cardoso Jr. in the middle of the box, dribbled slightly to his right and snuck the ball past George Mason keeper Sebastian Umerez to give Stonewall a 2-0 cushion.
But Luna’s most impressive goal came with 10:53 remaining in the match, as he received a short pass from Ed Juarez and scorched a shot along the grass from 25 yards out that found the back of the net. Luna’s second goal came just two minutes after Hinson scored George Mason’s only goal of the evening, regaining the momentum for Stonewall.
“I just try to play every game like it’s my last one, because God only knows when we’ll be going. If I go tonight, if go right after this or tomorrow, I want to be remembered for something good. I just want to give it my all,” Luna said.
Golladay said the Generals received a huge benefit by having the advantage of playing on their home field on Friday night, and Stonewall is excited to have that luxury one more time when they face Northampton — last season’s Group A runner-up — next week.
“We were here, we had our home crowd, we had our home field. We had everything pushing for us,” Golladay said. “We’ve had that before, but tonight we finally capitalized on it. And to have that going into the state quarterfinal game, that’s one of the biggest things.”
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org