By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s boys varsity soccer team won the Conference 35 championship last Thursday, besting conference and region rival Stonewall Jackson High School 8-0. The George Mason Mustangs faced the Stonewall Jackson Generals twice during the 2013 postseason. The Generals beat the Mustangs 3-1 in the Region B championship, then the Mustangs beat the Generals 2-1 in the single A state championship.
“Mason and Stonewall Jackson – we’ve got a deep history together, good and bad. Last year we had a good game and last year we had a bad game,” said Stonewall Jackson Head Coach Caleb Golladay. “But they lost three or four guys last year. We lost 10, so it’s a big difference. We haven’t had [nearly] as good of a season as we had last year.”
Both teams had 21-4 regular season records in 2013. This year, the Mustangs were 15-1 going into the conference championship while the Generals were 12-6. Still, the Mustangs had something of a chip on their shoulder, according to George Mason Head Coach Frank Spinello.
“We were definitely amped up to play since we played them last year in the region and state finals. The weather had been a debacle in the beginning of the week, so we were fired up just to get the game started on time,” Spinello said. “We came out with a vengeance, and played Mason football the entire match.”
George Mason sophomore striker Raheem Lawal led the Mustangs in scoring with three goals against the Generals. He scored the second, third, and eighth goal of the match.
“We just played our game,” Lawal said. “Of course it was a different game – they lost a lot of players – but I think we just played our style, and it didn’t matter how they played as long as we played our style.”
Sophomore striker Elliot Mercado scored two goals against the Generals. Senior midfielder Paul Darmstadter, junior midfielder Matteo D’Agostino, and freshman midfielder Olo Sembera each added a goal to the Mustangs’ tally. Darmstadter had three assists in the match and Mercado had two. Junior defenders Ned Quill and Patrick Pereddo and sophomore midfielder Grant Goodwin each had one assist.
Junior goalkeeper Daniel Donovan had four saves in a game with challenging moments for the Mustangs defense. At one point in the second half, the Generals had three corner kicks in less than two minutes.
“I think we were being really aggressive. … It’s a hard game for the defense to play when the field is really wet, because the ball skips, but we were getting our body behind it,” Donovan said. “And our outside backs, especially Thomas [Rund] and Ned were being really aggressive with balls in the air, winning headers. So we didn’t really give them any chance to win any balls.”
The Mustangs defeated Madison County High School 9-0 last Wednesday to get to the conference championship. Spinello said that because of two straight days of lightning last week, which postponed their matchup with the Madison County Mountaineers, it seemed like the Mustangs would never get the game in.
“We maintained our focus through all the delays and came out very sharp. Our attack was dangerous and our pressure was relentless,” Spinello said.
Darmstadter scored four goals and Lawal scored three goals against the Mountaineers. Mercado and senior forward Brian Connelly each added a goal to the Mustangs’ tally. Darmstadter had two assists in the match while Connelly, Sembera, senior midfielders Sinan Kokuuslu and Owen Puller, and junior midfielders Jorge Nieto and Kavon Nowroozi each had one assist.
The Mustangs advanced to the Region 2A East playoffs, where they defeated Wilson Memorial High School 4-0 in the quarterfinals on Monday. Spinello said the Wilson Memorial Green Hornets were a good matchup for the Mustangs.
“They had a lot of strength in their midfield, so it was a battle all game long. I like the way my boys responded to a good opponent; we played with composure and focus,” Spinello said. “Our depth really helped us out. Patrick Pereddo, Tyler Marple, Olo Sembera, and Nico Ferrara all came off the bench and had great matches. We were able to rest some players when needed and the level remained very high.”
Darmstadter, Kokuuslu, Lawal, and Mercado handled scoring duties for the Mustangs. Lawal had two assists in the match. Darmstadter and Mercado each had an assist.
The Mustangs played Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School on Wednesday in the semifinals of the Region 2A East playoffs, but results were not available at press time. The winner of that game moves on to the Region 2A East finals on Friday.