WOODSTOCK – Central has relied on a strong defense all season and it came up big again on Thursday.

Led by the defense, the Falcons tied with Clarke County, 0-0, in Bull Run District boys soccer action. Despite the tie, the Falcons still control their destiny to secure second place in the district. Central beat Clarke County, 2-1, when the two teams met on April 23.

“I thought it was an even game,” Central coach Ted Poor said. “I didn’t feel like they put us under a lot of offensive pressure. We just couldn’t connect passes. I don’t know why we couldn’t connect passes. If we had done it things would have been different. And the other thing we didn’t do — we didn’t put enough pressure on the ball, which the first time we played them we were all over them.”

Neither team had many strong scoring opportunities. The Falcons outshot the Eagles, 7-3, in the first half. One of the Falcons best scoring chances of the opening half came on a shot by Landon Shockey about five minutes into the game, but Clarke County goalkeeper Brandon Mayo was able to get a piece of it and deflect the ball away.

The Falcons controlled possession for most of the first half, but the Eagles controlled possession for most of the first 30 minutes of the second half.

The Falcons (9-4-1, 6-2-1 Bull Run) picked it up offensively for the last 10 minutes of regulation but weren’t able to finish any of their scoring chances. Central outshot Clarke County, 2-1, in overtime.

“We always have a battle with this team,” Poor said. “Clarke’s very physical and we always have a hard game. Nothing’s ever easy playing Clarke.”

Central sophomore defender Alex Lopez said it was a hard-fought game.

“It was hard competition,” Lopez said. “Both teams were playing hard and we just came up unlucky.”

Poor said he recently moved Lopez and sophomore Dylan Summitt back to defense to give that group more speed.

“Alex Lopez – he’s wonderful back there,” Poor said. “He’s aggressive and fast. Dylan, who I think is a great midfielder, he scored a couple goals for us. But he’s willing to play any position, and I pulled him back. So I have a lot of guys that aren’t playing their normal position but they’re doing a real effective job on the defense for us.”

Outside of two losses to Class 2 powerhouse George Mason, the Falcons have only allowed six goals in 12 games. The Falcons lost a lot on defense from last year’s squad to graduation. To make matters worse for Poor and his defense this season, senior Trenton Hitt suffered a season-ending injury three games into the season. Poor said Hitt was the leader of his defense. Poor said he’s been pleased with the way his players have responded to adversity and played on defense.

“I couldn’t be happier about my defense,” Poor said. “I had to rebuild it from scratch, basically. Senior Sam Higgs did play defense some last year but he’s a striker. And the other boys have stepped up and done a terrific job.”

Poor said freshman Brandon Gwyn has also been a bright spot on defense.

“Brandon Gwyn is going to be a great defender,” Poor said. “He’s a freshman and he’s still getting used to playing at the varsity level. He’s got great speed, great size.”

Poor said sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Fletcher has also done a great job for his team. Fletcher has 130 saves on the season and seven shutouts.

Higgs said the whole defense does a good job of working together.

“I think we have a strong center core to our defense, and our outside guys are pretty strong as well,” Higgs said. “Our midfielders hold it down pretty well for us as well.”

The Falcons play at Strasburg on Tuesday to end their regular season before postseason play starts in two weeks. Lopez said he feels good about what the Falcons can do the rest of the season.

“I think we have an amazing team,” Lopez said. “I think we have so much potential. I’m so glad I’m part of it. I see a great victory in front of us.”

– Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com