QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson senior Tyrel Morrison didn’t really know how to describe it.
“I don’t even know,” Morrison said with a grin, shaking his head as he stood on Stonewall’s soccer field shortly after Thursday’s Region 1B boys soccer tournament semifinals against Riverheads. “I’m just happy.”
The Generals had reason to celebrate on Thursday night, as they checked off a goal that has stood at the top of their lists since last season came to an end. With Thursday’s 4-1 win over Riverheads, its third victory of the season over the Gladiators, Stonewall booked its return to the Class 1 state tournament for the second straight season.
Prior to last spring’s state quarterfinal appearance, the Generals hadn’t made the state tournament since 2013, when they fell to George Mason in the Group A state championship game.
Stonewall’s path to putting itself in a position to clinch a state tournament spot was easy enough. Number 7 Cumberland forfeited its regional quarterfinal match with the second-seeded Generals but Riverheads put a little scare into its Shenandoah District rivals on Thursday, matching the Generals through the first 40 minutes and taking the game into halftime with the score knotted at 1-1.
Stonewall, which got a goal from junior David Arteaga Loorenzo in the first five minutes of the game, needed second-half goals from sophomore Andrew Lute, Morrison and sophomore Alexi Lopez to put the Gladiators away.
“We decided to turn it around at halftime,” Lute said. “It’s a nice feeling because a couple years ago it wasn’t the greatest program, and now we’re getting something.
“It was that, just that we wanted to go (on), and our coach made the comment that if we don’t win tonight we’re turning in our jerseys,” Lute added of the halftime discussion Thursday evening. “I think that turned us around because we wanted to continue to go as far as we could this season.”
Just how far that ends up being is yet to be determined. Stonewall couldn’t get out of the state quarterfinal round last season, falling at home to Rappahannock on penalty kicks.
The Generals hosted No. 4 Altavista on Friday in the Region 1B championship game, the winner of which earned a home game in Tuesday’s state quarterfinals (the results of Friday’s match were not available before press time).
“I want to try to get farther this year. I want to try to make it to Radford,” Morrison said, referring to the site of the Class 1 state semifinals and championship game.
“That’s gonna be up to them,” Stonewall head coach Matt Burgwald said of whether his team can put together a deeper playoff run in his second season at the helm. “The kids are prepared. They have to execute. I can coach them but I can’t go out on the field and play for them. If they play the way they’re supposed to play, absolutely. They can match up with anybody that’s out there. The biggest thing that I introduced to Stonewall two years ago, at this point, was heart, drive, passion and make sure that they focus on teamwork. And they’ve done pretty well.”
One thing Stonewall should have going for it is experience. Seven of the 10 Generals who earned all-region recognition last season returned this spring, and Stonewall has eight seniors among others who have tasted the state tournament once already.
“I feel like they have that drive to try to get us there,” Lute said of the seniors. “I mean, the whole team does, but since it’s their last year they don’t want to go out on a bad note.”