By Jeff Nations
QUICKSBURG -- Juan Luna had been here before, at least in his imagination.
Before Luna even took the field for Monday's Region B boys soccer quarterfinal match against visiting Clarke County, he'd had a discussion with his father about what to do in certain situations. One of them was a direct kick in the penalty area, and that's exactly what Luna was preparing to do in the third, sudden-death overtime against the Eagles.
Luna pulled aside teammate Jonas Jacuinde and told him exactly what he wanted to do.
"I told Jonas just tap it a little bit [off[ center, and just ripped it," Luna said.
Luna's blast sailed over and past Clarke County's wall and into the upper corner of the net past Eagles' goalkeeper Danny O'Donnell, who never had a chance to stop the game-winning score with 2:59 left in the final overtime period as the Generals pulled off the 4-3 victory.
"Definitely one of the greatest feelings of my life," said Luna, a senior.
It nearly looked like one of the less memorable days for Luna and his teammates, as Clarke County (12-7-1) erased a two-goal deficit in the second half and nearly sent unbeaten Stonewall Jackson (20-0) packing in the regional quarterfinal round for the fourth straight year.
"I think at one point Clarke had us, when they had those couple goals," Generals coach Caleb Golladay said. "I think if they'd been given five more minutes, they might have been able to sneak another one in regulation, but they needed five more minutes. It was so close the end of the game, and we were able to hold them."
Up 2-1 heading into the second half, Stonewall looked in control after striking again just two minutes after the break. David Dodson poked a through ball to teammate Roberto Cardoso Jr., in the penalty area. With just O'Donnell to beat, Cardoso flicked the ball to his opposite foot, stepped over the sprawling goalkeeper at the top of the box and smoothly tapped in the ball for a goal.
The Eagles came surging back, as Clarke County coach Scott House gambled a bit by pushing up Anthony Marasco to provide extra pressure.
It worked, as with 25:31 the Eagles' Jacob Rogers tagged a long ball toward teammate Eric Hoyt, who outran a pair of Stonewall defenders to corral the ball and snapped off a shot past Generals goalkeeper Ryan Zerkel and into the upper left corner.
Hoyt nearly struck again just three minutes later, when his hard shot was on target but slammed off the crossbar.
It was a temporary reprieve for Stonewall, though, as Davey Hardesty burned them on another running attack with just 4:44 to go. His second goal of the game tied it for the Eagles, eventually forcing the three five-minute overtime periods that Luna ended with his game-winner.
"Davey Hardesty and Eric Hoyt have been pressing back defensive lines all season long," House said. "We knew if we could just keep that up, that relentless pressure that they can put on a team, then some goals would come our way and that's exactly what happened."
Hardesty struck early in the first half to put the Eagles up, collecting a cross from teammate Theodore Biddle-Snead in front of the goal and punching in a shot just seven minutes into the game.
The Generals put consistent pressure on Clarke's defense after that, and broke through with 17:25 to go in the first half with a beautiful goal. Leo Galindez, pressing forward from the wing, sliced a cross to toward the far post. Dodson timed it perfectly for a header that snapped back toward the opposite post.
"You can't take anything away from that team because they're [really] good," Dodson said. "Our hats to them. No one gave us an inch and we didn't give them an inch. We had to work for everything."
The Generals took a lead into halftime with their second goal with just 4:10 left on the clock. Rafael Zuniga snuck a pass through the defense to teammate Pedro Jacuinde in the penalty box. O'Donnell partially body-blocked Jacuinde's point-blank shot, but the ball scooted free and slowly rolled into the open net for a goal.
The Generals will host a Region B quarterfinal game on Wednesday, although they weren't sure of their opponent yet. Those details weren't all that important to Dodson and the rest of the Generals on Monday.
"I've got to give it to my teammates, just an unbelievable season," Dodson said. "We silenced the haters. No one thought we could do it, and we came out here and won this game."
"... In the locker room before this game, we knew we could win. We just had to play the game of our lives, and we did."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>