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NW Region Boys Soccer: Eagles kick it in gear to advance




SOUTH RIDING—After spending nearly the entire first half in its own end and managing just three shots on goal, Colonial Forge gathered briefly at halftime of its Northwest Region semifinal against Freedom–South Riding and tried to pinpoint the cause of its offensive shortcomings.

“We hadn’t played an away game in [four] games,” said senior Manuel Madrid, referring to a regular-season victory at Orange nearly three weeks ago. “We’d been playing at home, and then to take a two-hour bus ride—we were lackadaisical and tired. Then we realized this could be our last game, and that kind of boosted everyone to give it their all.”

Madrid did just that, scoring the go-ahead goal in the 56th minute on a well-placed bouncer over Freedom goalie Jimmy Lamantia, and the Eagles kept their postseason surge alive with a 3–1 victory at Eric J. Olsen Memorial Stadium on Wednesday.

They’ll now face Albemarle, a team they defeated twice in the regular season and a third time in the Commonwealth District finals, for the regional title. But Wednesday’s victory was a milestone, as it clinched a spot in the Group AAA state tournament for the first time in school history.

“It means a lot more to all the seniors,” said Zack Miller, who scored Colonial Forge’s first goal. “We played harder than in the past years, definitely. We pump up the team. It’s our job to.”

Freedom (13–5–2), the Cedar Run District champion, controlled the pace of the game in the first half and had two scoring chances in the first 20 minutes—one a chip that went high, the other a cross that goalie Nolan Smith snagged near the goal line.

James Paredes, who entered with a team-high 13 goals and scored 10 of them in a six-game stretch earlier in the season, broke the scoreless tie in the 46th minute by slipping a shot past Smith on the right.

It didn’t take long for Colonial Forge to respond. A foul in front of the box on the left led to a free kick in the 54th minute, and though Tim Clancy was originally awarded the opportunity, he insisted it be taken by Miller, who looped it over Lamantia into the far corner to tie it.

The Eagles then went ahead two minutes later on Madrid’s goal, which came after Miller took possession of the ball deep in his own zone and pushed it ahead to Connor Hawthorne at midfield.

Hawthorne then spotted Madrid streaking up the center of the field with the breakaway, and Madrid nudged past his defender from 35 yards out, sprinting by to put a bouncer into the net.

“He can be pretty fancy, but on the goal, he just wanted it more,” said coach Jeremy Sargent. “There were no feints. There were no step-overs this time. He just wanted it more, went and got it and just buried the ball. It was a great finish one that I hope I got on tape, because it will be fun to watch afterwards.”

Hawthorne scored the insurance goal, his first of the season, in the 78th minute, as Colonial Forge didn’t back down afterward and continued shooting. It had five shots, three on target, in the final 21 minutes; Freedom managed just two shots.

Smith finished with eight saves, while Lamantia had 11.

“We kept the ball, didn’t have to work all that hard and we made them chase, and that was part of the story,” Sargent said. “I think they got a little fatigued. They worked so hard and played so well in the first half that they just weren’t able to put in the effort for the full 80.”

The Eagles defeated Albemarle on the road 2–1 on March 13, the teams’ season opener, and twice at home—2–1 on April 20 and 3–1 on May 21.

“We should win, because it’s at home again, and we beat them three times,” Miller said. “We might as well make it four.”

Zac Boyer: 540/374-5440