McCourt shines in Stonewall soccer loss

QUICKSBURG – Friday was senior night at Stonewall Jackson High School for the boys’ soccer team, but it was a freshman who proved formidable for the Generals. Nevertheless, they lost to Shenandoah District-Conference 44 power Riverheads 8-0 in a game shortened because of the mercy rule.

Consider that the Gladiators (15-0 overall, 13-0 in the Shenandoah and 4-0 in the conference) have represented the district, the conference and the region twice in the last two years. They feature the Shenandoah’s player of the year for 2015, James Kasak, who also was first-team all-state member.

Kasak scored four goals against Stonewall for at least the second time against all opposition this season. He was supported by Isaiah Knapp (two scores), Elijah Burch and Samuel Puffenbarger, each of whom scored a goal apiece.

Yet against all this firepower – the visitors featured eight seniors – Stonewall Jackson goalkeeper Blake McCourt held his own. McCourt is a freshman on coach Caleb Golladay’s squad.

Seniors Alyandro Joaquin and Tyler Lacek closed out their home careers at Stonewall Jackson, with at least one regular season game remaining and then perhaps a run in next week’s conference tournament.

But it was McCourt, 6-foot, 205, who stood out. While Kasak, Knapp, Burch and Puffenbarger were firing countless shots at McCourt’s goal, the first-year player recorded eight saves.

“He’s good and he’s going to get better,” said coach Golladay. “He’s just learning the game, but in the last two matches, specifically, he has played well.”

McCourt participates in multi-sports at Stonewall Jackson. He thinks each adds benefits to the other.

“From basketball, I’ve learned to use my hands, from football, toughness and conditioning,” McCourt said.

Otherwise, it was a difficult night for the Generals (3-12 overall, 3-10 district, 2-2 in the conference).

Kasak, who scored two goals in a Riverheads victory over Stonewall Jackson earlier in the season, had a hat trick by the 39th minute. He scored again in the 68th minute. Knapp’s two scores came at the 27th minute and 62nd minute. Burch scored in the 49th minute and Puffenbarger’s goal came at the 63rd minute, ending the game.

The season continues for the Generals. They have a regular season conference match at Luray on Tuesday. Should they win, there’s a chance they could advance automatically to the five-team conference’s semifinals.

A loss at Luray will probably send a play-in game back to Stonewall Jackson.

“We’ve just got to keep playing and building on what we’ve done,” said Golladay.