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Jefferson Forest boys' bid for state title falls in penalty kicks to Western Albemarle

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Western Albemarle’s Jamey Williamson (left) and Jefferson Forest’s Kyle Butcher fight for the ball during the Class 4 boys soccer championship on Saturday at Chancellor High School.

FREDERICKSBURG — Scott Zaring went one-by-one to each of his players and embraced them. Some were doing their best to hold back tears. Others dejectedly looked down onto the turf of Chancellor High School’s Charger Stadium. A few embraced Zaring back.

The Jefferson Forest boys soccer coach made sure to remind his eight seniors of one important thing: No other JF team had ever advanced to back-to-back state championship matches. It was an accomplishment each could savor.

The Cavaliers on Saturday had to again watch another team hoist the championship trophy.

One hundred minutes wasn’t enough to settle the Class 4 title match between JF and Western Albemarle. Five penalty kicks weren’t enough either. It took William Graham finding the back of the net on the sixth penalty kick for the Warriors to claim a thrilling state final that saw a 2-2 tie after four overtime periods, both teams battle injuries and have to constantly fight and claw for every possession.

“These guys, they learned from last year’s seniors, and then they took it and made it their own this year and fought through so much adversity, injuries, overtimes,” Zaring said. “Everything and anything that could have been thrown at them, they were just able to take it in stride and be able to move forward.”

JF goalkeeper Wilson Hetrick and WA goalie Cullen Webster were masterful in penalty kicks. The teams were tied after the first two rounds, and Hetrick came up with two diving stops (one to his right and another to his left) to keep things tied.

“Wilson stood on his head and made two unbelievable saves in penalty kicks,” Zaring said.

Webster benefited from Kyle Butcher hitting the right post on JF’s third attempt, and then he made a diving save on JF’s fourth attempt.

Webster made a brilliant save on Jacob Gong’s attempt on the sixth try, and Graham followed by lofting his shot over the diving Hetrick.

“The sixth penalty, I just knew I had to save it,” Webster said. “I believe it was the same way [Gong] had gone with the first penalty, so I just got myself there and was able to get my hand to it.”

The Cavaliers (20-3-1) had to settle for second place again after falling to Smithfield 2-1 in the 2021 title match.

They never trailed against Western (17-3-2) on Saturday and held the lead twice, but were unable to keep the Warriors at bay.

“We were expecting a fight,” JF senior forward Allan Brinly said. “We were going to take it to them.”

JF struck first on Walker Stebbings’ goal in the 19th minute. Justin Chiodo’s corner kick was perfectly placed into the box where Stebbings was able to get his head on the ball and find the back of the net.

That ended a flurry of activity in front of Webster as JF was on the attack to open the game.

Western Albemarle, though, answered back. The Warriors kept the pressure on for a 10-minute stretch and finally scored when Connor Spano’s pass into the box was headed in by Jamey Williamson in the 36th minute.

“After we scored that first goal on them, their energy turned up a little bit,” Brinly said.

WA held a 6-3 edge in shots in the first half and finished with a 15-8 edge over the 100 minutes.

The first half featured three of the game’s five yellow cards as the opening 40 minutes looked more like one of JF’s intense matches against rival E.C. Glass.

The teams settled into a rhythm as the second half progressed and JF appeared as if it seized control thanks to a run from Butcher.

The midfielder advanced the ball up the right side and found Brinly in the box for a one-timer that gave the Cavaliers a 2-1 lead in the 60th minute.

“It was just the drive,” Brinly said.

That advantage lasted all of five minutes. WA applied more pressure and sent the ball into the box. It ricocheted off a pair of JF defenders before falling in front of Alex Keeton, who delivered a shot just above the outstretched arms of Hetrick for the equalizer.

“We came back, we got that first one with Allan scoring it. Same thing, they came back with that urgency,” Butcher said. “That’s what it comes down to, if you have that urgency or not. Both teams had it today.”

Hetrick and Webster each had one save during the four overtime periods to set up the penalty kicks.

The outcome ended like the 2004 Group AA title match for JF. That season, Charlottesville won in penalty kicks.

This season, the “killer instinct” and “no-quit attitude” that has embodied JF helped get them to the precipice of the program’s second state title.

The Cavaliers came up one goal short.

“These guys are going to remember this, just like they did last year,” Zaring said. “I thought, to put it into perspective, you lose in regular time last year, you battle through overtime and lose in PKs this year, so it’s a step. It’s a baby step, but it’s a step.”

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