Male Athlete of the Week: Figueroa doing it all for Wildcats
FRONT ROYAL – Even without seeing Jorge Figueroa play a minute of soccer, Warren County first-year boys soccer coach Shane Lilly knew the sophomore was going to be something special.
When the Wildcats began fundraising back in the fall, Figueroa was present each time. When they started conditioning and practicing drills after students returned to school from Christmas break in January, Figueroa missed just one session during the seven-week period because he wasn’t feeling well.
It was that dedication to the sport that made a quick impression on Lilly.
“He’s always got a smile on his face. He’s always working hard. You never have to address him in practice,” Lilly said before practice Monday afternoon. “And the best part about it is he’s a sophomore. So he’s got this season, he’s got two more ahead of him to keep excelling and he just has a fun, passionate view about soccer.”
It’s safe to say Figueroa has been thoroughly enjoying his second season of high school varsity soccer at Warren County. In five matches, the sophomore has already notched two hat tricks and has accounted for seven of the Wildcats’ 12 goals.
In last Friday’s Bull Run District match against visiting Strasburg, Figueroa, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for April 4-10, helped will his teammates to a 4-3 overtime victory with three goals.
Figueroa scored the game-winner in overtime and quickly answered a Strasburg goal midway through the second half to ensure the Rams’ wouldn’t build any late momentum. But perhaps his most important goal was his first, when he scored the first of two Warren County goals in stoppage time in the first half to help the Wildcats quickly turn a 2-0 deficit into a tie just before halftime.
“That was very important because when I scored the first one everybody got excited and then we just, out of nowhere we got this strength and we started working together,” Figueroa said.
Figueroa put all of his soccer talents on display at one time during his initial score.
He used his speed to race past the Strasburg defense while chasing down a pass from teammate Paul Buono along the sideline to his left. Once he gathered the ball, he muscled his way around Strasburg senior defender Justin Carr – a standout running back and linebacker for the Rams’ football team – while maintaining possession of the ball as the duo jostled toward the penalty box. He then poked a finesse shot around the Rams’ Damion Howard-Wolford as the keeper charged from his position in the net to try to halt the breakaway.
“His footwork is tremendous for a sophomore right now,” Lilly said. “Physically he can take the beating. He can take the hits of a stronger defender, stronger midfielder, but he can outrun a lot of the small, speedier defenders. He’s the full package as a soccer player. He can pass. He can shoot. He can take dead-ball shots. He does it all.”
And Figueroa does it with a confidence that he says is a product of growing up in a family of athletes. He wants the ball in situations where his team is counting on him, as was the case on all three of his goals last week.
“I’m always there for my team,” Figueroa said. “They know where I’m at, they know how I play and they know I’ll do something with the ball when I get it.”
But even Figueroa – who scored his seventh goal of the season in Warren County’s 4-2 win over Madison County on Tuesday – didn’t expect to have this much success this quickly.
The sophomore, who moved to the area from Maryland in October 2014, needed just four games this spring to match his entire scoring output (six goals) from his freshman season with the Wildcats.
“I’ve pretty much changed my attitude and my uncle told me a few pointers on what I should do when I’m playing in the game,” Figueroa said. “As a team I think what’s changed is our team chemistry. We pass the ball better. We communicate better and we just stay focused.”
Figueroa’s skill level has caused his teammates to take notice, and his infectious attitude already garnered him a few team captain votes in the preseason, Lilly said, a fact that bodes well for the Wildcats’ future.
Lilly added that Figueroa and his teammates are being groomed for future leadership roles by Warren County’s current group of seniors, which includes Matt Moore, Drew Wilson, John Coffron, Ricky Platter, Josh Butler, Nick Albritton and Will Barnett.
“They’re here, they’re working hard and the nonsense is out the window,” Lilly said of the seven seniors. “I know that’s been a reputation in the past in games and practice about Warren County boys, that a lot of nonsense occurs. Well that’s gone, and they’re buying into this idea that me and Coach (Thomas) Hodge and Coach Mike (Sprague) are working on.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org