Osbourn Park Coach Larry Nemerow was frustrated by the lack of offense from his team in the first half of Thursday night’s Virginia Conference 8 boys’ soccer championship against Battlefield, but he wasn’t surprised that the game had turned into a defensive stalemate. His son, Nate Nemerow, was coaching the Bobcats, and the two teams were spitting images of each other for long stretches.
There were no glances between father and son across the field, nor was much thought put into one taking one another down. It was the kids who put on the show in Haymarket, although at times it seemed as if the game would not produce a winner at all.
“It’s unfortunate we’re in a game where we both can’t win,” Nemerow said of facing his son.
Just as was the case all spring, Osbourn Park swarmed on defense and waited for one opening on the other end. It came on a free kick in the 66th minute, as junior John Laufer bent a goal around the wall to lift the Yellow Jackets to a 1-0 win on a gusty evening.
“We just got lucky to get a foul at the top of the box, and we just put away our chance,” Laufer said. “You have to finish your chances.”
Osbourn Park (11-2-3) lost at Battlefield, 1-0, on April 1. And after an 0-2-1 start, it looked as though the perennially strong Yellow Jackets were bound for a down season. But Nemerow’s team rebounded with 11 wins in 13 games and formed a strong defensive identity in that stretch. Thursday’s win marked the team’s ninth shutout this year, but only by inches.
After Laufer stunned Battlefield (11-4-2) with his crafty goal, the Bobcats nearly tied the game twice in the final 10 minutes. Goalkeeper Jeffrey Madigan desperately punched out a shot at the seven-minute mark and then watched as another potential goal by sophomore Bobby Bynum whistled above the crossbar with three minutes left. Battlefield’s best chance at an equalizer came with just less than two minutes remaining, but a header off a corner kick faded just left of a wide-open net.
It was the second time in a week that Osbourn Park defeated Battlefield, 1-0, which didn’t make anything easier on the Nemerow family Thursday. Both teams will start their preparations for next week’s 6A North region tournament, where there’s a possibility they could meet in the final. As the two shook hands at midfield Thursday, Larry Nemerow told his son he loved him.
“If we don’t win the region, I want him to win the region,” Nemerow said. “If we’re not going to be there, I want him to win the state championship, and those kids.”
In the girls’ Conference 8 final, senior forward Colleen Gawkins scored a goal and added an assist to lift No. 1 Battlefield to a 3-1 home win over No. 8 Osbourn Park.
It took the entire first half for Battlefield (15-0-1) to find the back of the net after a flurry of chances, including two shots that hit the left post seconds apart midway through the half. But Gawkins, who will play at Tennessee next year, scored her 28th goal of the season with just less than two minutes to play in the first half.
After Osbourn Park (11-4-1) earned the equalizer in the closing seconds of the first half on Marissa Valenti’s 23rd goal of the year, Battlefield responded with relentless offensive pressure in the second half. Gawkins dropped off a cross for freshman Kayla Hamric for a goal eight minutes into the half, and senior Karina Lacey put the win on ice with another goal in the final minute of the game.
Battlefield is the top-seed in next week’s 6A North region tournament and will open at home against Annandale next Wednesday. Osbourn Park is the tournament’s No. 2 seed and will host South County on Wednesday.