The terms are all too familiar to any athletic team: “Inches away,” “seconds from,” “gutsy effort,” “moral victory.”
Although each of them describe the play of Patrick Henry boys soccer at home last Thursday against nationally-ranked Mills Godwin, in the end, the record book will show a 2-1 overtime loss.
But that is not what will be prevalent on the minds of many players and certainly not on the mind of head coach Dan McGraw.
“I’m very proud of the way our kids played,” McGraw said. “Even when things weren’t going our way, they were still focused. We worked the ball in the back, which, if you’ve watched Patrick Henry soccer, we’ve never been able to do that, playing a gentleman’s type game.”
The Eagles came into the contest 24 hours removed from their first loss of the season, to Maggie Walker Governor’s School, and ranked third in the nation by StudentSports.com (they are now down to #41). Their discipline and speed outpaced the Patriots in the first half, but they only managed two shots on goal.
Patrick Henry goalkeeper Hunter Davis made a diving save in the 55th minute at the start of a Godwin push that lasted 10 minutes. They dominated field position, forced action, but the Patriot defense wouldn’t break.
“And that was our bench that did that,” McGraw noted. “We gave our starters some rest and took a gamble that we could. And I’m extremely proud that, although both of our center backs went down, both starting seniors, two sophomores stepped in and played like they were seniors.”
McGraw refers to Logan Bulthuis and Brennan Hynson, who are finding out quickly what it’s like to play state championship level competition at the varsity level.
The Patriots seized the momentum after weathering the storm, and took the lead on a penalty kick by Kyle Vaughn in the 78th minute, sending the Patriot faithful into a frenzy. All they needed was stoppage time defense to claim the upset.
But the other shoe dropped with literally seconds to go in regulation as the Patriots were called for a foul forcing a Godwin penalty kick. Cutter Jacobson found the back of the net to send the match into overtime.
In the second of two three-minute sessions, during what seemed like a simple scrum 25 feet to the right of the Patriots goal, Cullen Hall got his foot on the ball, sending it towards the net. It hit the post and found its way behind Davis for the game-winner. The Eagles avoided a second straight loss to move to 5-1, while Patrick Henry fell to a hard-luck 2-4.
McGraw, though, sees a silver lining in playing such a demanding schedule of former Colonial District foes.
“We have a tough schedule, and we can take some losses early against quality teams. They hurt, and we’re not trying to lose, we don’t want to lose,” McGraw noted. “We’re playing state-level teams, and if we stay tight with them throughout the season, we hope as we get towards regional playoffs, we may see them again.”
First, Patrick Henry has to deal with their Conference 16 foes. Albemarle is 3-2 after defeating Powhatan Monday night 3-1, while Orange is 1-3 and Halifax is an impressive 6-0.