During halftime of the Jaguars’ Virginia 5A North region semifinal against No. 10 Broad Run, Bah was wearing a butterfly bandage and a big tan bandage under his left eye. His white jersey was flecked with blood, and no amount of dabbing his shirt with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball would totally remove it.
When Bah took the field to start the second half of the Jaguars’ 2-0 upset over the Spartans on Wednesday night in Falls Church, Coach Joel Harrop drew his attention.
“Haji!” Harrop yelled. “No fear!”
With constant pressure fueling a possession-based attack, a stout roster of players with international backgrounds helped Falls Church lock up a berth in the state tournament while earning a place in Friday’s region final. The Jaguars will face Albemarle, which beat Mountain View, 1-0, in the other semifinal.
After winning just one game last year, the Jaguars (11-7-1) have advanced further in the playoffs than Harrop or anyone in the athletic department can remember. Before taking Bah to Inova Fairfax Hospital to get stitches in a cheek that was cut in a collision, Harrop said the junior midfielder showed why Falls Church has made its transformation.
“He is one of those guys that can play a full 80 minutes without coming out, and he never stops,” Harrop said.
Against a Spartans team that had won the region in two of the previous three years, the Jaguars rebuffed early advances and generated their own momentum in the 14th minute.
Senior Bimosan Ghimire handled a feed from sophomore Vagner Marques Rodriguez about six yards from the Spartans’ goal, where a short tap with his left insole was all that was required to cross up senior goalie Jaleel Robinson (12 saves).
Because he was born in Nepal, Ghimire’s teammates call him “Gurkha,” the name of a Nepalese defense force that repelled invasion from the British East India Company in 1814. Ghimire has refused to miss time with leg and back injuries this season.
“Last year it wasn’t like this. This year we actually want to be someone. We actually want to do something,” Ghimire said. “After I graduate, I want to have a name for myself and my team.”
Junior Muhammad Zulkifely, a product of Malaysia, put Falls Church up by two with a low rolling shot he bent just inside the left post in the 55th minute.
Playing without leading scorer Wilder James, a senior forward who was still waiting to be cleared to return from a concussion, Broad Run (12-4-2) could not get past sophomore Jaguars goalie Emmanuel Vargas.
Spartans defender Jose Trejo was called for a yellow card late in the first half that nullified his equalizer and incited him to draw a red card for arguing with an official.
“It was a big call to make in a big game like this,” Broad Run Coach Jon Hicks said. “We’ve seen that before, and it hasn’t been called.”
●TUSCARORA 1, ATLEE 0: In 5A North region girls’ action, the Huskies defeated Atlee and advanced to face Albemarle — a 1-0 winner over Briar Woods — in the region title game.