For Brentsville, this week had been as much about testing its mental fortitude as anything else.
After opening a slate of challenging games against bigger, favored opponents with mixed results — a win, a disappointing defeat and a loss to one of the area’s top teams — the Tigers proved with a dominant 4-1 boys’ soccer win over No. 1 Battlefield on Friday that they had a steely reserve and, most importantly, are capable of playing with anybody.
Any argument to the contrary was answered with one strike in a commanding performance against the Bobcats when, 10 minutes into the second half, All-Met senior Zach Willis took possession 45 yards from goal, beat a defender and cracked a left-footed shot from 38 yards out that found the goal’s upper right corner.
It was not a lucky strike, more the fitting summation of a game in which Brentsville (4-2) dominated every facet and scored more than one applause-worthy goal. And it was appropriate that it had come from the foot of Willis, the heart and engine of the team who was undoubtedly the most dangerous player on the field at all times.
“On Tuesday and Wednesday I don’t think we came out as prepared as we were tonight, especially Tuesday” said Willis, who will play next season for James Madison. “We had optimal conditions out here — beautiful day, beautiful field, close rival school and it’s a big win.”
Field conditions at Battlefield forced the game to nearby Long Park in Haymarket and onto a large turf field that suited Brentsville, a Virginia AA school, more than the Bobcats (3-2-1), who advanced to the Virginia AAA state title game last season.
The Tigers wanted to pass and were able to, but did so effectively only within their own half. It didn’t matter, however, as they made up for it on set pieces.
The first came 10 minutes in when a long throw found Willis, who was able to volley the ball to the far post and into the corner to provide an early lead. Another goal off a long throw-in assisted by Willis in the 27th minute made it 2-1.
Brandon Caruso had a sweet curling goal to the far post from 25 yards out in the second half that provided a 3-1 lead, and Willis added his screamer four minutes later to hand Battlefield its second consecutive upset loss.