Winfield's Noah Laliberty (20) slides to kick the ball away from Hurricane's Alex White.
HURRICANE - Admittedly, Hurricane sometimes loses focus.But when the Redskins regains their poise, watch out.Seniors Felipe Thompson and Trevor Cunningham scored two late goals as Hurricane fought off Winfield for a 6-3 victory in the Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 boys high school soccer championship game. A crowd of about 300 attended the Putnam County rivalry featuring top-five teams at Hurricane High School.Hurricane (20-0-1), which finished the regular season No. 1 in the final state coaches association rankings, will take on No. 3 Huntington at approximately 7:30 p.m. next Thursday in the Region 4 final at Cabell Midland High School with a state tournament berth on the line. The two teams didn't play during the regular season because of a scheduling conflict.Cunningham tallied off an assist from senior Alex White about nine minutes into the second half to stake the Redskins to a seemingly comfortable 4-1 lead. The No. 4 Generals (14-5-2) came roaring back behind back-to-back goals from sophomore Steven Taylor a little more than three minutes apart to pull Winfield within 4-3 with 16:04 to go in the game."We knew we had to keep our heads in it,'' said Cunningham, who finished with two goals and an assist. "We were too confident with the lead we had. Right then we had to pick our pace up because we slowed down and relaxed. We just came right back and kept hammering and hammering and got our heads back in it and pulled it off.''Hurricane snapped out of its slumber and four minutes later Thompson answered with his third and final unassisted goal to give the Redskins the lead for good at 5-3.The foreign-exchange student from Santiago, Chile, gathered a loose ball in the penalty-box area that Winfield failed to clear, and Thompson wheeled around to deliver the ball in the upper 90 of the near right post. Cunningham added an unassisted tally for good measure to set the final score with 6:01 left.The Redskins defeated the Generals for the third time this season in addition to a 1-0 victory during the regular season and a 2-0 win in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship.Thompson had two goals in the first half and sophomore James Snavely netted a goal off a setup from Cunningham as Hurricane went ahead 3-1 at halftime. After Thompson's first score put the Redskins up 1-0, about a minute later junior Ronnie Beale answered for the Generals off an assist from junior Hunter Sheldon. Hurricane, though, quickly regained the momentum with Snavely's tally and Thompson's score. Thompson's second goal was his most impressive, outmuscling five defenders before getting off a shot.
"It's the thing that makes this team different than any we've had is that they're so capable of scoring,'' said Hurricane coach Jim Dagostine. "To answer goals in a game like this is so important."It's nice to have a team that's capable of that. What they've done thus far this season has just been outstanding. You have to give Winfield credit. They refused to quit. We knew we had to play 80 minutes to beat them.''Winfield failed to clear the ball on two occasions in the penalty-box area, which led to two goals. "We made a couple of mistakes in front of the goal,'' said Winfield coach Mike Foster, who loses six seniors but returns four sophomores."I'm proud of our guys. They've worked hard all summer. I'm proud of what they've done.''
The stakes keep getting higher for Hurricane, but Cunningham believes the Redskins are ready for any challenge."I think we're playing the best we have all season,'' he said. "We've just got to keep it up to the state tournament.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.