South County senior Max Kleess sprinted off the field at Lake Braddock Secondary School on Friday night, bent his knees, sat back and let out a primeval scream. His boys’ soccer team had been flat throughout the first 40 minutes of its Patriot District title match against Hayfield, and Kleess could not possibly have caused a more drastic energy reversal.
Kleess’ 78th-minute goal, which came off of an assist from Matt Karwel and bounced off the hands of Hayfield goalkeeper Fernando Seas, followed the tying score from Mojtaba Amin in the 73rd minute. It also set off a raucous celebration that included everything from a cross-field sprint to the traditional pile-on after the 2-1 win.
“Honestly, I don’t remember really what happened,” Kleess said. “I remember coming to the sideline, and the crowd was going crazy. I was just running from my team. I knew I was going to be at the bottom of the pile.”
The district title was South County’s first and followed wins over T.C. Williams and Annandale in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively. The top-seeded Stallions improved to 12-1-1 with the victory and will now face Stuart in the first round of the Northern Region tournament on Tuesday night.
Hayfield, meanwhile, saw its dramatic run through the district tournament come to an end. Despite being the No. 7 seed, the Hawks upset Lake Braddock (1-0) in the quarterfinals and topped Lee, 5-3, on Wednesday night to get here. On Tuesday, they’ll face either Edison or Yorktown.
In the first half and only seconds before Jamie Kanashiro’s 13th-minute marker that gave Hayfield a 1-0 lead, Kleess tapped twice to his right and had a shot deflected up in the air, granting Seas an easy save and nullifying South County’s only legitimate first-half scoring opportunity.
Both teams had shots sail wide in the first half, too. In the 15th minute, Hayfield’s Kevin Jimenez slipped a pass to his right, and Juan Grande’s attempt traveled too high and to the right of South County goalkeeper Javier Hernandez. Zach Crandall of South County saw daylight in the 29th minute, but his attempt went wide left.
<b>IN THE GIRLS’</b> game, West Springfield pulled off a 1-0 win over South County and claimed its third straight Patriot District title, a victory that came courtesy of a 45-yard loft off of the foot of Jessie Gonzalez. South County goalkeeper Christina Cooper jumped but barely missed the ball, tipping it over her head.
Gonzalez, upset because of her team’s play through the first 30 minutes, aimed for the back post but was not exactly trying to score. Though she struck the ball harder than she wanted to, things didn’t turn out all that bad.
“If she’s serving a ball into the box, whether it’s on goal, she’s shooting for goal or she’s putting something in the box for someone else to run onto, she’s got a great chance of getting us a goal,” West Springfield coach J.T. Alukonis said. “I couldn’t tell you if she was trying to score, but it just kinda happened. I’ll take it either way.”
The win differed greatly from the previous two meetings between these two clubs. On April 22, West Springfield thumped South County, 8-0. In last year’s Patriot District title game, the Spartans outlasted their opponent, 1-0, scoring in the fourth overtime.
West Springfield improved to 13-1-2 on the season and posted yet another shutout. The Spartans have now allowed one goal since March 17 -- a span of 14 matches or roughly 1,120 minutes of play. They last permitted an opponent to score during a 1-1 draw with W.T. Woodson on April 30.
“Our defense is awesome,” Gonzalez said. “They all play really well together, and they have the same mentality.”
While dropping to 9-4-2 on the season, South County will face Edison Tuesday for the first round of regional action, and West Springfield will host Mount Vernon.