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For a team that let nothing stand in its way, match against the two-time defending champion was not so daunting.
For a squad that had racked up 23 victories in 23 matches, the following challenges were mere trifles:
-Playing, essentially, on the home turf of fellow State finalist Blacksburg.
-Playing in 90+ degree heat on consecutive days.
-Missing the graduation ceremonies of four of its key senior players.
-Nearly missing the State tournament because the team bus was almost two hours late in arriving.
None of it mattered, when all was said and done. The Cavs showed the skill, poise and determination to bring home the big one.
After topping Tabb, 1-0, on Friday, the Cavs took care of Blacksburg, 2-1, on Saturday.
Cavs win the game that almost wasn’t
The old saying tells you that 90% of life is showing up.
The Cavs nearly missed the bus to their state semifinal matchup with Tabb.
Or, should we say, the bus nearly missed the Cavs.
The bus that Jefferson Forest hired for the team apparently got lost en route to Forest, arriving one and three-quarters hours late.
While some pitched phone calls got the bus where it was supposed to be, and though the Cavs arrived later than planned, they were able to arrive before warm-ups for their match.
In the early going, however, the Cavs looked tentative and listless.
If not for three superb saves (two flying and one diving) by keeper Jeremy Lee, the match could easily have been in Tabb’s back pocket midway through the first half.
Lee helped his own cause when, with six minutes to go in the half, he boomed a clearing kick well over the heads of the aggressive Tabb defense.
As the ball bounced past the fullbacks, JF’s Matthew Crider raced past them, too. The freshman sensation quickly got control of the ball and found himself in a one-on-one with Tiger keeper Matt Powell. Crider’s right-to-left blast was never in doubt, and the Cavs went to halftime with a 1-0 lead. That’s all they’d need, as things turned out.
With Jacob Jennings, Bryan Zaring, Drew Henderson and R.J. Goodwin playing impeccable defense, Lee’s life in the second half became much less frenetic.
Lee did make one more superb save in the second half on a shot by Tabb’s Ryan Bedford. Other than that, the JF defense looked stout. Thus was punched the ticket to the State title game.
The greatest soccer match in JF history
In the final, against Blacksburg, the Cavs came out looking tepid.
Perhaps it was the knowledge they were missing graduation. Maybe it was the idea of playing the most storied program in AA. Who knows?
What is known is that Blacksburg struck first. Attack man Garland Smith fought his way along the baseline with Zaring. Elbows flew, cleats churned and Smith somehow got off a shot which eluded Lee.
1-0 Bruins, 24 minutes into the contest.
Henderson: the equalizer
The score stayed that way, as did the Cav style of play, for the remainder of the first half.
After the break, though, the team seemed rejuvenated and driven. “At the half I said that this is not our team,” said Head Coach Jedd Zaring. “Let’s have some fun since this is the last game of the year.”
The lads responded. Fourteen minutes into the second half, Carlos Munez was awarded a free kick. In the subsequent scrum, Henderson found himself with the ball by the right post. He eased it on home, past Bruin keeper Cole Sinclair and defender Sam Bernhard for the equalizer.
The score seemed to do two things (beyond the obvious). It raised the confidence level of the Cavs palpably and it had Blacksburg taking on a more aggressive posture on offense.
Bullock’s march and Crider’s crusher
With the Bruins obviously not wanting to let this one go into OT, the pressure was on.
Again, Lee and his defenders rose to the occasion. Still the pressure was incessant. And it created a JF opportunity.
On a Blacksburg throw-in toward the JF goal, the ball scooted across the field, well out of the box. There, Tyler Bullock scooped up the ball and began a tremendous, 70-yard march.
As the junior speedster scooted along the left sideline, he eluded a pair of Bruin interceptors.
Meanwhile, Crider scooted up the center of the field.
With one defender remaining, Bullock dished to his left as the Bruin committed to him. His pass fell neatly to Crider, who smoothly and calmly nailed his shot back to the right.
JF 2, Blacksburg 1.
“I realized it was my turn to shine,” said Bullock. “This means everything.”
All that remained was for the Cavs to play strong defense for a little over three minutes.
Oh, yeah, and to douse Coach Zaring with the ice water bucket.
“Blacksburg is always tough,” noted Keeper Lee. “This time we were ready. We got ready the whole year.”
“This is the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in my lifetime,” said Bryan Zaring after the team had collected its trophy and medals.
Marco Kempf, one of the team’s exchange students, said, “This is definitely the highlight of my time at JF. It’s the best part of being in America.”
Added Coach Zaring, “This is huge. I’m not an emotional guy, but I had some tears.”
Did you know?
-JF finished the season with a record of 24-0. Perfecto.
-The JF soccer title is only the second State team title by a Region III school this year. The other title was won by Northside, in baseball.
-Seniors Bryan Zaring and Devin Jones will continue to be teammates, as they’ll head to Lynchburg College next year to play for the Hornets.
-The team’s other seniors are Kempf and Thomas Mathisen. Kempf is from Germany and Mathisen is Norwegian.
-The Cavs had 15 juniors on the team roster this season. We’re not suggesting that Cav fans pre-book a trip to Radford for next year’s final.
We are suggesting, however, that you might want to hold off on booking anything else during the VHSL 2012 Spring Jubilee.
Just in case.