James Wood boys’ soccer wins first regional title | Winchester Star
WINCHESTER – Add another historic milestone to the James Wood boys’ football team for the ages.
The Colonels defeated Park View 2-1 on Wednesday in Region 4C’s championship game for the first regional football title in Frederick County’s history.
Already this season James Wood (record 15: 0) celebrated school records for victories, shutouts (11) individual career goals (Chris Garcia) and individual goals of the season (Seth Hammond).
Two days after winning his first regional tournament game in school history, James Wood could jump and scream while holding the championship trophy in the air, smiling and posing for photo after photo on their home field at Kelican Stadium.
“Since I haven’t got a junior year, it just means a lot to me and the entire team,” said James Woods senior captain and midfielder Erick Nolasco as he carried an ice pack on his shoulder after the physical battle with the Dulles, District Champions Patriots (Sept. -2-2). “We are all very happy and excited that we made it this far.”
James Wood’s mantra throughout the season was “not done yet”. The Colonels’ urge to win the first team state title of any kind since 2002 is set to continue in the class 4 semifinals on Monday. James Wood will travel to take on the Region 4D champion, which will be decided on Friday when Blacksburg takes on Jefferson Forest.
On Wednesday, the goals a minute before the end in the first half of midfield newcomer Tristan Obert and in the 62nd minute of senior striker Hammond were too much for Park View, who only hit the net a minute before the end of a direct kick from something more than 20 meters away.
Park View – who had downplayed a man in the last 30 minutes when one of their players was given a red card for punching Nolasco in the back of the head – couldn’t fire another shot in the last minute.
The two teams were even in shots (seven), saves (three), and had the ball similar, but James Wood was on a level a little more efficient than Park View at getting the job done.
The Colonels have done an excellent job all season long punishing teams for throw-ins, and Obert was the last to cause damage. Ryan King’s throw-in from the right found Obert on the doorstep of the goal, and after the ball popped out of Obert’s thigh, he headed the ball in for a frenzy of James Wood’s large fan base.
“I tried to hit it for a volley,” said Obert. “But when I took the touch, I looked up and saw the goalkeeper [Dived Ezat] on the way out so I knew I had to set it up [and head the ball in]. “
It was a tremendous momentum for the Colonels in a game that looked like goals would be hard to score. The Patriots had three shots at James Wood’s two in the first half.
In the second half, Park View continued to struggle with his attempts to crack James Wood’s defense, and the Patriots also struggled with their composure. One player got a yellow card early, another got a red card 10 minutes after the start of the second half for beating Nolasco. That meant Park View had to play one less player for the rest of the game.
Being a man hardly reassured James Wood. Colonels trainer Brian Sullivan had to grab the attention of several Colonels for the remainder of the game to ensure they didn’t go over the edge themselves due to the physical nature of the game.
“They got under our skin a bit,” said Sullivan. “But I thought we did a good job, fight, fight, fight.”
James Woods senior goalkeeper Brandon Dunn (three saves) made a big save when he intercepted Edwin Henriquez Pena’s long-range shot, which ricocheted just in front of him in the 58th minute.
Four minutes later, Hammond scored the decisive goal.
James Wood senior right-back Aidan Barton played a long ball down the right over the top of defense from near midfield, creating a race between Hammond and Park View keeper Ezat. The two got the ball almost at the same time, but Hammond’s touch created a distraction that went behind Ezat. Hammond shot the ball from the right edge of the box into the wide open goal and scored his 24th goal of the season.
“Aidan played a nice ball and just let me run for it,” said Hammond. “The goalkeeper came out and luckily I got there first.”
Hammond was near James Wood’s sideline when he scored and the Colonel players swarmed around him.
“Pure hustle and bustle from Seth,” Sullivan said over the gate.
The superlatives of the Colonels then ended the matter and did not allow another shot until Ali Mahgoub hit with his direct shot a minute before the end. Sullivan said the Colonels wanted to curtail strikers Pena and Luis Nunez on Tuesday and defenders Barton, King, Micah Frigaard and Ethan Bowman didn’t allow them to do much productive work.
James Wood found a way to dig deep whenever it was needed this year, and on Wednesday they did it in the greatest situation of all. The Colonels also had to dig deeper with their bench due to an injury to midfielder Connor Ballentine in the middle of the first half.
“It’s a real team,” said Hammond. “We all like each other, we all grew together as a group and that helps us in the games. I think what brought us victory in the end was that we stuck together.”