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Group AAA Boys Soccer: Patriots savor the ‘best feeling in world’

ALBEMARLE BECAME TRUE

ROAD WARRIORS TO CAPTURE

STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

CHANTILLY—It’s often midnight when the Albemarle High School boys soccer team gets home after Commonwealth District road games.

The Patriots are the only Group AAA school in their immediate area.

So since 2000, they’ve been in a district composed of schools from Stafford, Spotsylvania and Orange.

Albemarle’s players and coaches said they often feel like “outsiders” in the Commonwealth.

That’s part of the reason senior midfielder Rowen Perry said it was the “best feeling in the world” after the Patriots defeated district rival Colonial Forge 3–0 Saturday at Westfield High School to earn the first state championship in school history.

“All the other schools in the district seem to have a grudge against us,” Albemarle senior co-captain Alex Bohn said. “So we’ve had to earn our respect. This definitely sends a message.”

Perry raised his arms in the air and began searching for teammates to hug after the victory. The Patriots then went over to celebrate with their fans as the song “We are the Champions” blared from the stadium speakers.

Albemarle’s fans chanted “state champs” as they soaked in the win.

“It feels fantastic” senior co-captain Shane Rose said. “We talked about it at the beginning of the year, and now it’s reality.”

It became real because the Patriots made adjustments to Colonial Forge’s style of play after losing to the Eagles three straight times.

Saturday’s meeting was the fifth between the schools this season. Colonial Forge won the first three contests but Albemarle responded with victories in the Northwest Region and state championships.

“Colonial Forge is a great team,” Rose said. “But we were able to adapt these last two games. We got back to playing our game.”

The Patriots have consistently challenged for Commonwealth titles. Still, the two-hour drive from Charlottesville to most road games has been draining, veteran assistant coach Jeff Balnave said.

Bohn said the road weariness is especially difficult for the freshmen, who are experiencing their first season of varsity athletics.

But after the season settles in, the Patriots become accustomed to being on a bus four hours round-trip.

It was perhaps even beneficial in the state playoffs. The Patriots defeated Lake Braddock in Friday’s semifinals on penalty kicks after 80 minutes of regulation and four overtime periods.

They traveled to Charlottesville after the victory, and boarded a bus back to Chantilly Saturday morning.

It was nothing new for the Patriots, who appeared to be fresher than the Eagles throughout the contest.

Balnave joked that may be because for the first first time, the Patriots used a charter bus instead of the school bus the team regularly travels in.

“They played 100 minutes [Friday] and they looked like they had a week’s rest,” Colonial Forge coach Jeremy Sargent said. “They were sharp and energized. If that’s what it takes to play like that, maybe we should schedule some [far away] road games, too.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/sports/2012/06/09/group-aaa-boys-soccer-patriots-savor-the-best-feeling-in-world/