Wildcats rally for overtime victory

FRONT ROYAL – Moments after his team topped visiting Strasburg in Friday night’s Bull Run District boys soccer match, Warren County first-year coach Shane Lilly was asked about the Wildcats’ ability to shake off an early deficit and seize momentum with a pair of goals late in the first half.

“That’s our team right there,” he replied.

For the second time this season, Warren County rallied from a first-half deficit for a victory, as sophomore Jorge Figueroa notched three goals – including the decisive score in overtime – to power the Wildcats to a 4-3 win.

Warren County (2-2) trailed 2-0 before scoring two goals during stoppage time in the first half.

“When we get behind that’s what clicks for us,” Lilly said. “It’s a shame that’s our mentality and that’s what we’re trying to break in practice right now. But that really turned the switch on them.”

Like the Wildcats, the Rams (2-3) entered Friday’s match having lost back-to-back games in shutout fashion, but broke that drought on Alex Medrano’s goal in the 19th minute before tacking on another goal in the 34th minute from Kyle Tiemeyer.

Momentum then took a 180-degree turn in favor of the Wildcats, beginning with Figueroa’s first goal in the early stage of stoppage time. The sophomore speedster gathered a pass from teammate Paul Buono down the sideline and beat a Strasburg defender in the box before poking the ball past Rams goalkeeper Damion Howard-Wolford to cut the Rams’ lead to one.

“We worked as a team,” said Figueroa, who now has two hat tricks through four games. “We were communicating. We didn’t get crazy and I guess we talked to each other. We didn’t get frustrated. We played good, we passed good and we gave it all we got. We didn’t come to lose.”

Warren County added a second goal just moments later when junior Jakob Cornwell, making his first start of the season, gathered the rebound off Wolford’s save at the right post and tapped in a chip shot to tie the match.

Riding that newfound momentum, Warren County limited the Rams to just six shots over the final 40 minutes of regulation and the two overtime periods. Lilly said sophomore defender Cody Petitt “stayed cool” and played one of his best matches of the young season.

“I think he really carried that defense,” Lilly said. “I know (senior) Matt Moore is a steady defender and he’s our best senior captain defender but Cody Petitt really had a great game, and it was his attitude that said, ‘We’ve gotta do this. We’ve gotta stop getting down and then putting pressure on ourselves.’ The kids really took that from a sophomore defender and I was really proud of him.”

Strasburg reclaimed the lead midway through the second half when Alex Medrano floated a header over Butler off a corner kick from his younger brother Josue. But that advantage was very short-lived as Figueroa chased down a pass from Drew Wilson – who Lilly credited with “tiring the defense” all match – on a breakaway and scored a minute later.

“It was really important,” Figueroa said of the goal. “We still wanted to be in this. We came back – I guess that’s all we did. We came to work.”

Strasburg head coach Joel Ross said the Rams’ defense consistently became too spread out on Friday, making it more challenging to defend Figueroa, who he described as a “strong, physical” player.

“Our defense could mark him but then … we got spread out and we had too much space, so they were having to cover other things,” Ross said. “Part of that was us getting on the attack and spreading out on offense too much.”

Both teams had chances to break the tie but couldn’t score over the final 22 minutes of regulation, sending the match into overtime.

After Warren County came up empty on three shots and two corner kicks early in the extra frame, Figueroa gave the Wildcats the lead for good when the ball found its way to his foot in the middle of the box following a throw-in before he fired a shot into the net to complete the hat trick.

Strasburg nearly tied the match again in the second overtime period when Makia Sanchez scorched a 25-yard shot, but Butler make a leaping attempt and punched the ball away as it lined toward the upper-right corner of the net.

The save was a bit of redemption for Butler (four saves), who slipped after charging from the net on Strasburg’s first goal of the match and had Tiemeyer’s sliding 25-yard shot skip through his arms and into the net.

“He made his mistakes early on and I’m proud of him for getting that one,” Lilly said. “And that’s what I told him right at halftime. I took him away, I said ‘You’ve gotta come out and you’re gonna make a save at some point and you’ve gotta just make the save. You’ve gotta just forget about that stuff.’ I’m real proud of him.”

Warren County out-shot Strasburg 22-10 in the match.

Wolford had six saves for the Rams before he left the game 14 minutes into the second half due to a leg injury that Ross said his keeper suffered early in the match.

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