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More than a week has passed since Jefferson Forest nailed down the Boys Soccer AA State Championship.
Still, the party goes on.
It was nearly a dozen days ago that the Cavs were awarded the team trophy that comes with that State title.
This past Tuesday, the members of the team received notice that they’d be getting something of a more personal nature.
Following a celebratory parade, the Cavs were fitted for championship rings.
You see, you get a ring when you win a State title. As this is the first State championship in any sport by any Bedford County team in at least six years, you may have forgotten that fact.
The Cavs won their championship in grand fashion, topping two-time defending champion Blacksburg by the score of 2-1 in the final. The win was an exclamation point on a season that ended with a team record of 24-0-0.
That win was a come-from-behind classic, which is bound to be talked about in the Forest area until the players are old and gray.
It may take that long for the reality of the big victory to fully take hold. Still, they do have a pretty good idea about what they’ve accomplished.
“This is a huge deal for the school,” said senior co-captain Devin Jones. “We’re proud to give the school the title.”
Fellow co-captain Bryan Zaring related how he heard of his classmates at commencement exercises getting game updates. The JF graduation and the State title game ran nearly concurrently.
“It meant so much,” said junior forward Tyler Bullock. “The next day it finally hit me.”
“I screamed at my house, I was so happy,” recalled Zaring. That his house was full of relatives visiting from Pennsylvania likely reduced some of the echo of the young man’s shouts.
That the win came against 11-time State champ Blacksburg, a team that had knocked the Cavs from the State semifinals two years ago, made it all the more sweet.
“They’re a great team,” acknowledged Jones. “So it wouldn’t feel the same beating another team.”
Added Zaring, “It was the perfect ending to beat the two-time defending State champ.”
Early in the season, the players seemed to sense that this might be a special season. “Beating Patrick Henry (2-1) and Cave Spring (3-0) sent the message to us,” noted Jones.
On top of those wins, the Cavs handled Hidden Valley and Western Albemarle in scrimmage action. That made four wins over very successful programs.
The other thing that became obvious in the early going was the team’s balance and depth.
The Cavs didn’t have one “go-to” guy. They seemed to have dozens of them. If one player faltered or came up limping, there were many others who would step up and fill the gap.
A good example of that in action was the JF defense. Nick Shortridge emerged as one of the more solid fullbacks over the course of the season. Then, he went down with a dislocated knee. Jacob Jennings, bouncing back from a concussion, stepped right back into the backline and performed like a whirling dervish during the State run, helping to shut down that Blacksburg scoring machine.
Happy days, happy fans
During its remarkable march through the post-season, the Cavs outscored their Seminole, Region III and State competition, 18-3. E.C. Glass scored two of those goals.
Several hundred people lined the parade route. The sojourn started at Forest Middle School, before winding up at the High School. Many of those people were happy to share their thoughts about the team, its success and the reaction to it.
“I think it’s great that everyone is so excited,” said soccer mom Becky Griffith. “The money, the hours, the driving. It’s all worthwhile.”
Trey Rice, a 10-year-old self-professed fan of JF soccer, said, “I think it’s cool they’re celebrating. Someday I want to be in a parade like this.”
“They deserved a parade,” said fan Anna Jennings. But the 13-year-old was quick to point out that such hoopla isn’t just given for anybody, adding “You have to win States to get a parade.”
These players know they earned their parade, but they don’t believe it is just about them. “It’s a big deal to those we played with in the past,” noted Jones. “Not only for the school and the community but for all the JF players that came before us...I feel we owe them something because they set the standards.
Added Zaring, “They built up Jefferson Forest.”