RADFORD, Va. — As an assistant coach on five Virginia A state championship boys’ soccer teams at George Mason between 2000 and 2010, Mustangs third-year Coach Frank Spinello knows how valuable the input from an assistant can be.
So he listened to his in the state final Sunday, and it paid off with the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over previously unbeaten Stonewall Jackson-Quicksburg.
Late in the first half, assistant Nathan Greiner suggested that the Mustangs try sophomore Patrick Pereddo at striker, even though he had never played the position. Pereddo scored with about 21 minutes left to break a 1-1 tie and lift the Mustangs to another state title.
It was only his third goal of the season.
“He’s always been a defender,” Spinello said of Pereddo. “Late in the season we converted him and tried to get him some extra minutes, so we played him at midfield. [Greiner] said that Patrick’s got burning speed and he’s calm in front of the net, so let’s try him up top. That’s the kind of confidence that we have in each other.”
“I was waiting for the ball because that’s why coach put me in, for my speed,” said Pereddo, who collected a ball from junior Cole Hinson and the natural lefty fired it in with his left foot.
The out-of-position Pereddo scoring the game-winner and Spinello snagging his first state title as head coach were just two story lines in a championship teeming with them.
Even though the team has a rich winning tradition, this year’s squad had not yet made its mark at a time when the school’s girls’ team was playing Sunday for a record sixth consecutive title. And there’s the fact that Stonewall had beaten George Mason in the Region B championship and had not lost this season.
“We thought about the people who were before us who carved a path for us and how hard they worked,” Pereddo said of the program’s traditon. “We just want to keep that going and not let it fall down.”
“Our guys wanted to come out and have their own identity, and I think they definitely proved it this weekend. . . .” Spinello said. “They’ve been nothing but incredible.”
Freshman Raheem Lawal gave the Mustangs a 1-0 lead about three minutes into the game. He attempted a header off a corner kick, and when Stonewall (24-1) did not effectively clear his shot, he stuck with it and found the net.
Hinson, the player who assisted on both goals, broke his leg on the same field two years ago when the Mustangs lost, 3-2, to Manassas Park in the state final.
George Mason (21-3-1) left the tournament site with five players providing their six goals in the semifinal and championship game and a cast of several with integral contributions, perhaps none moreso than junior defender-midfielder Paul Darmstadter , a player Spinello singled out as “the most complete player in the state at the single-A level.”
Darmstadter was in good company Sunday on a team that started only three seniors and next spring will be fortified by players off a junior varsity team that outscored the competition, 68-0.
“We built for this moment,” Spinello said. “We talked before the season that this is where we wanted to be.”