‘Hyped’ Warriors stay hot in win over Judges

STEPHENS CITY – Sherando senior Tommy Buono said the Warriors’ boys soccer team has come out “really hyped” over the past few games. To make sure that trend continued, he played an inspirational speech for his teammates in the locker room before Thursday’s home match against Northwestern District rival Handley.

That speech – delivered by motivational speaker Eric Thomas, perhaps better known as the “Hip Hop Preacher” – alluded to the lion’s constant quest to catch the gazelle. The lion doesn’t simply catch the gazelle, Buono said, recalling Thomas’ words, but must go on the hunt to grab its prey.

As Buono said after Sherando’s 4-0 victory over the Judges, “We were all about the hunt.”

The Warriors erupted for three goals in the first 15 minutes of action Thursday night, and that early momentum was plenty for Sherando as it rolled from there to its fourth straight win and second straight shutout.

“We got really hyped at the beginning of the game and said we just have to do it, we have to hunt them down and we went in just trying to do our best,” said Buono, who scored a goal and assisted on another in the victory.

Sherando (10-2-2, 6-0 Northwestern), which started slowly against Handley in the schools’ first meeting earlier this season, had no such trouble in the rematch at Arrowhead Stadium.

Gathering a throw-in from teammate and fellow senior Zach Wagner in the opening minutes, Buono pushed the ball down the left side of the field and deep into the corner of the penalty box before splitting a pair of Judges defenders with a pass back toward the middle of the field. Warriors senior Andrew Wade, racing into the 18 from the top of the box, was right there to meet the ball and fire a 15-yard shot into the back of the net to give Sherando the lead four minutes in.

“I think we got a lot of momentum from that,” said Wade, who leads the area with 15 goals this spring. “We knew if we could get an early goal, then that’s really just when we start piling it on. We can put a lot of pressure on teams.”

Sherando turned that pressure into another score six minutes later, as Wade returned the favor by finding Buono with a cross pass into the box, which Buono converted into his 11th goal of the season and a 2-0 Warriors lead. Wade’s pass initially deflected off Judges senior defender Mason Au before reaching Buono, but Buono was able to gather the ball in the box, tip a pass to himself over Au and then chip a shot over goalkeeper Haniel Lopez-Cajero and into the net as the Handley junior charged toward him.

The Warriors added a third goal in the 15th minute following another set play off a throw-in by Wagner, as his throw was headed by Wade right to the back post, where Nick Craig was waiting to tap a point-blank shot into the net for a 3-0 lead.

“We practice them all the time because again it’s a dead-ball situation, so it’s a restart,” Warriors head coach Pat Anderson said of Sherando’s set plays. “We’ll take it and we practice it because we’ve been on both sides of the equation. Broad Run used to kill us years ago doing that, so [we] kind of picked it up from there and figured we better try to work and jump on their side with it a little bit. We work on it all the time and those guys constantly practice it. That was good and it was successful tonight.”

Sherando cooled off over after its third goal of the match but the cushion was plenty for the Warriors’ defense, which limited Handley to 10 shots – five in each half – in the match. Most of the Judges’ shot attempts came from well outside the 18-yard penalty area.

“That was our key, is keep everything out in front, keep our goalkeeper clean so there’s no trash in front because that killed us early in the season against a couple teams also,” said Anderson, whose team hasn’t lost a match since April 11, a string of seven matches. “That’s the biggest thing is just pressing those guys out and they’ve been buying into it and it’s been working so far.”

Warriors senior goalkeeper Kevin Riley recorded five saves in the win and picked up his sixth shutout of the season.

Sherando added one more goal early in the second half, as a 45-yard free kick from Jov Hall was redirected five yards in front of the net by Seth Wade, who practically caught the ball with his neck before the ball slowly trickled over the goal line.

In all, the Warriors fired 20 shots, including 14 in the first half.

“The first 15 minutes I think we were just dazed and confused,” Handley coach Cosmo Balio said. “Our back line was schizophrenic at times. … We didn’t communicate when we needed to and we were just late on coverage and they were able to just knock a ball in the net. It was evident on the fourth goal. We just had no clue on backside defending tonight.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com