by Drew Costley
Frank Spinello, head coach of George Mason High School’s boys varsity soccer team, said in late February that he and his team expected to win the single-A state championship. The Mustangs did that on Sunday when they beat Stonewall Jackson High School 2-1 at Radford University in the state finals. The game was a capstone on a season filled with high achievement to match high expectations.
The Mustangs set a team scoring record with 112 goals this season and several players received post-season honors. Junior midfielder Paul Darmstadter and sophomore defender Ned Quill were first team All-State selections, and junior striker Cole Hinson and freshman striker Raheem Lawal were second team All-State selections. Hinson and Lawal were honorable mentions in The Washington Post’s All-Met selections. The Mustangs also went undefeated in the Bull Run District, winning the regular and postseason championships before making it to the Region B championship, where they lost to Stonewall Jackson. “I think the loss in the region final lit a fire under us,” Spinello said.
The Mustangs sprinted out of the gates in their semifinal match against Galax High School with a goal from junior midfielder/striker Sinan Kokuuslu in the second minute. Senior midfielder Henry Darmstadter kicked a cross in front of the goal from about 35 yards away and Kokuuslu knocked a header into the corner of the goal. Paul Darmstadter beat the Maroon Tide’s goalkeeper in the 17th minute with a chip shot from around 30 yards out to put the Mustangs up 2-0. That was the score at halftime.
Lawal, the Mustangs leading scorer this season, scored in the 70th minute off of an assist from Kokuuslu to put his team up by three. Henry Darmdstadter scored the Mustangs’ final goal in the 71st minute off of a pass back from Hinson. Henry Darmstadter didn’t score a goal during the regular season, but scored five during the Mustangs’ postseason run and assisted with three goals. Spinello said Henry Darmstadter, a team captain, played his best soccer during the playoffs and “is the best leader the Mustangs have ever had.”
According to Spinello, the game against Galax proved something he claimed about his team in mid-April – that they may have been one of the most complete he’s ever coached since starting out as an assistant coach at George Mason in 2000.
“Every single field player on the team got in the game for at least 10 minutes,” Spinello said, “and everybody showed that they are worthy of starting for any team in the state.”
The Mustangs beat Galax 4-0, but still had one more hurdle to clear. They had to beat Stonewall Jackson, the team that beat them 3-1 in the Region B championship, to claim the state title. Prior to the state final, the Raiders were undefeated. Spinello said his team felt that winning the state championship wouldn’t have felt the same if the Mustangs didn’t “get their revenge.”
“They didn’t want to just play whoever,” Spinello said. “They wanted to play the best team: the team that beat them.”
Lawal scored the Mustangs’ first goal of the match in the third minute after receiving a corner kick from Henry Darmstadter. In the 30th minute of the game senior goalkeeper Sebastian Umerez made two saves during a Raider run that helped the Mustangs realize that they weren’t going to lose the game. Part of the Mustangs’ strategy was to play a more physical game on defense to wear down the Raiders, who played an overtime game the previous day. Despite their efforts, the Raiders tied the game up in the 52nd minute.
Hinson and Lawal, the Mustangs’ leading offensive players, were banged up and had to be subbed out at different points of the match. Sophomore Patrick Pereddo, who usually starts on the Mustangs’ defense, played striker in place of Lawal in the second half. Hinson passed a through ball to Perredo, used as a striker for his speed, in the 60th minute that initiated a fast break. Perredo beat two Stonewall defenders and found the back of the net to score the game-winning goal.
The state championship title was Spinello’s first since taking over as the Mustangs’ head coach in 2011 and the team’s sixth title in 13 seasons. “We were tremendously excited after the match was over,” Spinello said. “We were just on cloud nine for a while afterward. … We spent so much energy in 48 hours that it was kind of a relief. We finally did it.”