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Group AAA Boys Soccer: Clancy doesn’t waste his chance




VIRGINIA BEACH—With five minutes left in this Group AAA boys soccer semifinal, Colonial Forge co-captain Kevin Roberts picked up the ball on the sidelines and prepared for a throw-in. The Eagles were tied with First Colonial, and they were running out of time to avoid overtime.

As Roberts looked to fire a long throw toward the goal, fellow co-captain Tim Clancy settled at the top of the penalty box. Clancy likes that spot, because every once in a while, the ball will pop to him before defenses have time to adjust.

And in this case, that is exactly what happened. Clancy briefly settled the deflected throw, took a deep breath and crushed a half-volley beyond the reach of First Colonial goalkeeper Alex Lally, sending Colonial Forge to a 3–2 win.

“It was one of those things where right when you hit it, you just kind of know,” Clancy said. “I just stopped, everything slowed down, and it went in. It was a great feeling.”

The euphoria from that moment was matched five minutes later, when the referee blew the final whistle and the Colonial Forge bench streamed onto the field with arms outstretched.

With the win, the Eagles advance to the state semifinals for the first time in school history. They will face Thomas Dale at Westfield High School on Friday at 4 p.m., and the winner will advance to the state title game. Last season, North Stafford won its first-ever boys soccer crown, and now its Stafford County rivals are two wins from equaling the feat.

“We take another step and we get to play another day,” Colonial Forge coach Jeremy Sargent said. “And at this point, really, anything can happen.”

On Tuesday, the Eagles’ anticipation rose as they rode for three hours on a charter bus to get to this game. When they arrived, they were met by a long field with long grass, and plenty of First Colonial fans.

“They had all the atmosphere in the world,” Colonial Forge goalkeeper Nolan Smith said.

Early on, the Eagles seemed a bit unsettled. They prefer to play an aesthetic brand of possession soccer, and suddenly they were facing a team that preferred to kick-and-chase. In the 16th minute, First Colonial’s Brooks Nopper sent a pass ahead to Brian Davidson, who was well-defended in the penalty box. The ball was knocked away, but it caromed to Tyler McArdle on the right side, who rolled a shot into the net.

But Smith, the sophomore keeper, was not rattled by that score. In the 22nd minute, First Colonial’s David Wenzel made strong and sudden contact on a bicycle kick, and Smith leapt to knock it away.

“I just threw myself at it,” said Smith, whose father graduated from First Colonial High. “I looked back and saw it curve around the post, and I knew I’d made the save.”

The Eagles struck back with four minutes left before halftime, as Connor Hawthorne ripped a low shot from 20 yards out, and Manuel Madrid redirected it into the net. Colonial Forge felt fortunate to be tied at the break, but it also felt confident that it could seize command with second-half adjustments. To counter First Colonial’s long balls, Sargent moved all-region midfielder Zack Miller to center back.

“We thought we’d have no question that if a ball came over the top, Zack would clean it up, just because of his technical skills,” Sargent said.

And on offense, the Eagles looked to be more patient in their approach and more aggressive at the net.

Sargent specifically told Madrid to look for his shot more often, and in the 54th minute Madrid gathered an attempted clear about 20 yards from the goal, and lowered his head. There were several defenders in front of him, so there was little room to place a shot, but there was also limited visibility for Lally, the Patriots’ keeper. Madrid crushed a low offering that swerved just inside the left post.

“In the second half,” Madrid said, “we started playing our game, our style.”

Still, First Colonial would not fade. In the 71st minute, Davidson emerged from a collision in the penalty box with the ball at his feet, and he slid a shot into the goal, tying the score at 2. As the teams played the ball back and forth over the final minutes, the game seemed destined for overtime, and possibly beyond. But then Clancy converted the one kick that did not miss, and the Eagles’ stunning season continued.

Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442