What If . . . Gar-Field's season started two months later?

After a 3-1 loss to host Westfield in the Virginia AAA boys' soccer quarterfinals on Tuesday night, Gar-Field players stood around the field and cursed their timing. Why had it taken two months to develop confidence, gel as a team and attack the goal?

Why did the end of the season feel so much like it should have been the beginning?

"That's the toughest thing: It feels like with more time we could have been awesome," said senior forward Darien Ruggles, who scored Gar-Field's goal. "I mean, we were just starting to play like we knew we could."

The first two months of Gar-Field's season, players said, were defined by infighting and turmoil. Players yelled at each other on the field. They lost five consecutive games starting in April; they lost their head coach, Gianni Grimaldi, after he resigned May 17.

Only during the last two weeks did the Indians begin to develop some chemistry. Under interim head coach Billy Broaddus, a former assistant, Gar-Field played with a traditional 4-4-2 alignment that propelled it to the state quarterfinals.

The second half of Gar-Field's quarterfinal loss was a display of its potential. Gar-Field out-shot Westfield 5-2 in the final 40 minutes. It attacked relentlessly and threatened to come back from a 3-0 deficit.

"I'm sure it's heartbreaking for these kids, because they feel like they were just getting going," Broaddus said. "That's tough. That's really tough. It's almost like they just ran out of time."

-- ELI SASLOW