By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Emily Denton was fed up.
The James Wood High School sophomore forward had seen so many good scoring opportunities come and go in the first half against Northwestern District rival Sherando, and many of them had been her own.
So when she got another shot early in the second half of Tuesday's girls soccer matchup off a dazzling cross from teammate Brianna Heustis, Denton was determined to finish. Denton scored the first of two second-half goals off that play to push the Colonels to a 2-0 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
"I was really frustrated with myself and I was just happy that I was finally able to pull through for the team," Denton said. "I wanted to show them that I can help them. They worked so hard and they deserved that goal. There are 10 other people on the field. It wasn't just me -- it was all 10 of them behind me scoring that goal."
James Wood (2-0-1 overall, 1-0 Northwestern) brought plenty of pressure to bear against the host Warriors in the early going, maintaining offensive control for much of the first 40 minutes and giving Sherando goalkeeper Akira Irving a workout.
Nothing came of it -- not on the scoreboard, at any rate -- and Sherando (1-2, 0-1 Northwestern) nearly swiped the momentum with a near-miss of its own. The Warriors' Ryan McKenna sent a cross into the box, and teammate Victoria Dean chased the ball down to get off a booming kick that hit the right post. Sherando's Amanda Fogarty followed up, but she too found the post instead of the back of the net.
James Wood coach Jim Carden said his team dodged a bullet there, and he went to work during the halftime break to regain the momentum by slightly shifting the positioning of Denton and midfielder Neary Casebolt.
"In the first half we had so many chances," Carden said. "But in the second half, we came back. We talked about regrouping and changed a few things. Emily was a little bit deeper, Neary was up farther so if they were going to mark [Denton] they had to come back and that left some of the back open for us."
The Colonels started pressing the attack, and Heustis broke the deadlock with a tremendous run down the left sideline. Heustis dribbled the ball nearly 30 yards downfield before sending a pinpoint cross to Denton in the penalty box. Denton took it from there, smashing a shot past Irving and into the upper right corner of the net in the 54th minute.
"I said to her, 'You're everything I thought you would be as a senior,' and she's only a sophomore," Carden said of Heustis. "Just a beautiful cross."
The Colonels struck again just three minutes later, and Denton set the table this time with a cross to teammate Meghan Hammond near the top of the penalty area. Hammond sent a rising long ball directly toward the net, and the ball clipped the crossbar and ducked in for a decisive goal.
"I am better at long shots than close up," Hammond said. "I normally play defense, so getting up close for shots isn't something I normally do."
Sherando coach Rob Kilmer credited the Colonels with a solid effort throughout the night.
"I thought their spacing was better than ours, they won 50-50 balls," Kilmer said. "They played a well-organized game."
It was a rare win for James Wood over the Warriors, one Hammond and her teammates hope is a sign of more to come for the Colonels.
"After last year, it's a really great thing to kind of come out here and show them that we don't have to lose to them every time and we can play to their level because they always seem to beat us," Hammond said. "But this year we managed to step up and win."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>