By Tommy Keeler Jr.
RADFORD -- Juan Luna laid on the ground for a few extra seconds after Stonewall Jackson's season came to a disappointing end Sunday.
It wasn't how he wanted his senior season to end. The senior didn't get to play last year after being held up in Mexico due to a visa problem. However, even with Sunday's loss to George Mason he knew that coming back and playing his senior season was well worth it.
Playing with the group of nine seniors was especially gratifying for Luna.
"It's been a blessing to play with them," Luna said of the senior class. "We're not just friends, we're more like a family. We eat together. We go out together. We live approximately 10 miles from each other, so we see each other every single day.
"I'm going to miss them all, but it just had to end."
Many of the seniors began playing together in the local parks together at an early age, and grew closer and closer together.
Stonewall Jackson coach Caleb Golladay said the fact that they were so close as a group was part of what made the senior class special.
"As a whole they've been playing together for so long," Golladay said of the seniors. "They're friends. They've played together forever. For them to come here and do what they've done this year was amazing, for Stonewall and for them."
Throughout the season the Generals had shown plenty of heart, and in the finals it was no exception.
The Generals rallied after going down 1-0 in the first half to the Mustangs. They were able to tie the game at 1-1, and certainly had plenty of opportunities to score another goal, but just couldn't punch one in.
The Generals had defeated the Mustangs in the Region B final, but Luna said he knew it would be harder to beat them a second time.
"They're a helluva team, we're a helluva team," Luna said. "The cards just didn't fall in our favor, though."
The Generals finished the season 24-1, and the senior class had a lot to do with that.
It was the second state final appearance in the program's history.
"We played all the games that were possible," Stonewall Jackson senior Ed Juarez said. "There's no more games after this. We just had to win the trophy and we didn't. It was still a helluva season. This was our only loss. And even then, I didn't think they played that much better than us."
"They led this team this year -- all my seniors -- on and off the field," Golladay said. "All the seniors led this team to where they are now. They got us here and accomplished things that I didn't even think they could accomplish."
Not only did the senior class lead the Generals to the state final, but they also were able to graduate together. The nine seniors -- Jacob Armell, Luna, Joe Livesay, Jason Albert, David Dodson, Juarez, Jacob Phillips, Jesse Dinges and Lucas Martinez -- traveled back to Quicksburg on Saturday afternoon and graduated with their classmates on Saturday night. That was just hours after their thrilling state semifinal win over Radford.
Juarez said it was definitely a day to remember, and one he was glad he got to share with his senior teammates.
"That was special," Juarez said. "Especially after winning that semifinal on PKs. That was a really fun night, knowing we had a state final to play in the morning.
"I'm glad I graduated from Stonewall. I love that school."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com