Clarke County 1, George Mason 0
After two years of heartbreak, the Clarke County boys' soccer team finally got a taste of victory at the Virginia A championship at Radford University.
Senior Clay Farrell scored in the eighth minute, and a suffocating Clarke County defense allowed George Mason few scoring chances as the Eagles won their first state title, 1-0, over the Mustangs on Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles had lost in each of the past two state championship games.
"It's amazing to come out on top, it's a great feeling," Farrell said. "The last two years were just motivation for us. We wanted to finally get the title."
In 2003, Clarke County lost the final in penalty kicks to Nandua, and last year George Mason defeated the Eagles, 1-0, for the title.
Yesterday, Farrell scored on a perfectly placed shot into the right corner off a cross from Bobby Hobbs that went through several defenders.
For the second straight year, the Eagles (19-3-1) faced the Mustangs (17-4-1) five times. In the regular season, the teams tied once and George Mason won once. In postseason play, Clarke County defeated George Mason in the Bull Run District championship game, and the Mustangs won the Region B title game.
Clarke County has only four seniors and George Mason has five, so the teams could continue to clash like this again in the future.
"Playing them so much, it's almost like scrimmaging ourselves sometimes," Hobbs said. "It kind of makes it harder, because they know exactly what's coming and we know exactly what's coming."
On Saturday, the Eagles had the advantage of having played in the first semifinal on Friday afternoon, a 3-1 win over James Monroe. George Mason played a grueling overtime game against Galax, and the Mustangs' victory following penalty kicks ended after 10:30 p.m. Less than 18 hours later, George Mason kicked off against Clarke County.
"No excuses, but I think it had an effect," Mustangs Coach Art Iwanicki said. "We needed to have our key guys in for the whole match, and we just couldn't do that."
After Farrell's goal, Clarke County's defense shut down the Mustangs. George Mason got off only five shots, the best from Kris McMahon, the player of the year in Region B and the Bull Run District, whose shot in the 57th minute went just wide to the right of the goal.
"Defense, it's been probably the most consistent part of the team this year," Clarke County senior defender Tom Elliston said. "We figured as long as we scored early, kept pressure on them and kept a defensive presence, we'd be all right."