Massaponax forward Brian Pate's strong right leg earned him a scholarship to kick for the William & Mary football team next fall. It is also why he takes every penalty kick awarded to the Panthers.
Pate fulfilled that duty against No. 10 Stafford last night, scoring on a penalty kick that propelled Massaponax to a 1-0 victory in a AAA Commonwealth District boys' soccer game in Fredericksburg.
"I run it through my head first, and I just bury it," Pate said of his approach to penalty kicks. "You should be able to hit a PK whether a keeper is there or not and make it every time. You should be able to tell the keeper where you're going and make it."
In a rematch of last season's Northwestern Region and Commonwealth District championship games, both of which Massaponax (4-2, 2-1) won, Pate was tripped a yard inside the penalty area during the 21st minute. On the ensuing penalty kick, he blasted a chest-high shot just inside the right post for the goal.
The game was particularly important for both teams because each lost earlier this week. In a district with as many as five teams that are legitimate contenders for the title, the victory gave the host Panthers a boost entering their match with first-place North Stafford on Tuesday.
"I'll take it after the week we had," Massaponax Coach Chris Farrell said. "This was a huge game for us. I told our guys that we needed to win tonight so we could play for first place on Tuesday."
Stafford (5-2, 1-2) lost its second straight match after beginning the season 5-0.
"It's tough to be one-two in the district, especially in a district like ours this year where anybody can pretty much beat you on any night, and there's no real gimme games," Stafford Coach Dave Sweazey said.
Each team managed five shots in the extremely physical contest. Pate, an honorable mention All-Met last season, and Stafford captain Bobby Foglesong left the game at separate times with knee injuries. Foglesong's injury sidelined him for more than a quarter, but he returned in the second half.