By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG -- The thought that David Dodson's high school soccer career could be over at any moment has weighed heavily on his mind this postseason.
Before each one of Stonewall Jackson's playoff matches, the senior has been so overcome with nerves to the point where head coach Caleb Golladay and the rest of the Generals have visibly noticed Dodson's anxiety.
Dodson simply doesn't want his high school soccer career to come to a close, at least not without the Generals hoisting that highly coveted Group A state championship trophy at season's end.
"Before every game I just get really nervous, and they come up to me and they're like, 'What's wrong?,' and I'm just like, 'I'm nervous, I don't want to lose,'" Dodson said. "I don't want to lose."
But as all of that anxiety threatens to overwhelm Dodson before each match, the senior hardly appears nervous or uptight when the ball is kicked off at midfield and the match gets under way. It's quite the opposite, in fact.
No other General has played as integral a part in giving Stonewall early momentum as Dodson, particularly since the Region B tournament began last week.
In Stonewall's last four matches, including Tuesday's Group A state quarterfinal win over visiting Northampton, Dodson has jump-started the Generals' offense by scoring the team's first goal. Twice in that span, Dodson has found the back of the net less than five minutes into the match.
Dodson's rise as a quick-strike threat for Stonewall this postseason has been a nice surprise for Golladay, and the first-year coach thinks Dodson's nerves are actually proving to be beneficial to the speedy forward.
"The nerves have been getting to him real bad, because any game could be his last game, and I think that's really what's getting him a lot. He's definitely stepping up," Golladay said. "I think the fact that this could be his last game is really pushing him to do well."
Dodson has been a reliable scoring threat at forward all season for Golladay and the Generals, but his impact has increased exponentially since the start of postseason play.
Dodson finished the regular season third on the team with 11 goals in 16 matches -- in Stonewall's seven playoff games dating back to the Shenandoah District quarterfinals, Dodson has scored nine times.
No performance was bigger than Dodson's on Tuesday against Northampton, as the senior scored both goals for Stonewall in the 2-1 victory. Dodson opened the match with a goal just four minutes in, and he later scored the go-ahead goal early in the second half to send Stonewall to the Group A semifinals.
His emergence as the kick-starter for the Generals in the postseason is a perfect fit for Dodson, who says he makes it his top priority to get Stonewall rolling early.
"I'm that motivator, the one that runs his mouth, the one that doesn't care who's talking. I'm the guy that's going to get the team jump-started," Dodson said. "I'm like the Energizer Bunny, that's what I do. It's a good feeling to be that person."
Golladay said Dodson's speed and quickness provides Stonewall with a nice contrast to forward Roberto Cardoso Jr., who is more of a possession-type player. Combine the styles of Dodson and Cardoso (team-high 39 goals) with powerful midfielder Juan Luna (32 goals), and the Generals have a devastatingly balanced attack that has been hard for many teams to slow down this season.
"We know we've got two very different forwards. Roberto, he's great with the ball, he can dribble the ball very well, and David, he's got pace. He'll run through two or three guys with no problem," Golladay said. "Being able to have both of those options up top, that's just great for us going into this tournament."
Stonewall (23-0) will certainly look to Dodson to provide yet another early spark when the Generals square off with fellow unbeaten Radford in the state semifinals on Saturday.
It's a task that Dodson is excited to undertake, and he hopes his energy can help bring the first Group A state title to Stonewall's boys soccer program.
"It's my senior year. I'm going to go off and do bigger and better things after high school, so I just want to go out with a bang," Dodson said.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com