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NW Region Boys Soccer: Loss in region finals drains air in Eagles’ bubble
BY ADAM HIMMELSBACH
Entering Thursday night’s Northwest Region title game, the Colonial Forge boys soccer team had defeated Albemarle three times this season.
So when the Eagles held a two-goal lead with less than 30 minutes remaining in regulation, their fourth victory over the Patriots seemed inevitable.
But momentum, by nature, can be fickle.
Albemarle scored in the 51st minute, and its fans began to howl, its bench began to buzz, and its players on the field seemed reinvigorated.
“They were energized, and it was tough to stop,” Colonial Forge coach Jeremy Sargent said. “It was like a wave coming at you.”
Riding their surge, the Patriots scored twice more and stunned the Eagles, 3–2.
At the final whistle, the Albemarle players raised their arms and swarmed together in joyous disbelief.
The Colonial Forge players, meanwhile, trudged slowly off the field, seemingly shaken by their missed opportunity.
“That first goal against us,” Eagles midfielder Tim Clancy said, “that one really knocked the wind out of us.”
But the Eagles cannot afford to be down for long. Despite their loss in the regional title game, they have clinched their first-ever berth in the Group AAA state tournament.
On Tuesday, Colonial Forge will travel to play the Eastern Region champion—either Grassfield or First Colonial—in a state quarterfinal.
“If we let this loss shake our confidence, it’ll be tough to claw our way back,” Sargent said. “But I think our seniors and our team captains will make our team understand it’s just one game.”
This game, like so many others this season, started well for Colonial Forge.
In the 15th minute, Clancy made a swift move near the left sideline, keeping the ball in bounds by inches before centering the ball to Collin Miller.
Miller took two quick touches to create space, then ripped a shot into the net.
“Tim played a perfect ball to my foot,” Miller said. “I just took it in stride and saw an opening.”
Then, in the 30th minute, Clancy and John Iwancio completed a well-timed give-and-go, as Clancy knocked the ball into the net on one touch.
Just like that, the Eagles had a comfortable two-goal lead and plenty of confidence.
“You think a couple of good moments is all you need,” Sargent said.
The Eagles took their 2–0 lead to halftime. At the break, Albemarle coach Scott Jackson told his players they needed to score one goal within the first 10 minutes of the second half.
They missed that milepost, but not by much.
In the 51st minute, Albemarle’s Kai Marshall headed the ball toward the goal, and it was mishandled by Colonial Forge keeper Matt Myers.
Patriots midfielder Rowen Perry swooped in and deposited the rebound, pulling his team within 2–1.
“We knew we just had to get a goal,” Jackson said. “Once we did, the game changed.”
And it changed quickly. One minute after Perry’s score, striker Jesus Duran drilled a half-volley into the net from 18 yards out.
With the score tied at 2, neither team needed to play with desperation on offense, and the game seemed destined for overtime.
But in the 87th minute, Albemarle’s Luc Fatton fed Perry, who took a few touches and slid a shot that grazed the inside of the right post and settled in the net.
With its regional title dream dashed, Colonial Forge now turns its focus to a bigger trophy.
“We’ll always have the awful feeling from this game in the back of our heads,” Clancy said, “and hopefully it’ll help us go win a state championship.”
Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442