Hurricane's Felipe Thompson makes a move around Hedgesville defender Joshua Taggart.
Fairmont Senior's boys team has gotten used to winning soccer games, but the Polar Bears boys were not used to winning the way they did against Bluefield in the Class AA-A state semifinals at Friends of Coal Trace Fork Soccer complex on Tuesday.
Fairmont Senior defeated Bluefield 5-1 for its 15th win of the season and it was the first time since a 6-0 win at Lewis County on Sept. 29 the Polar Bears had scored more than two goals.
During that span, Fairmont Senior went 4-2-1 including a 3-1 loss against its opponent in today's state championship game, Charleston Catholic.
So what makes the Polar Bears believe they can be the first team to beat Charleston Catholic in more than 50 games and keep the Irish from a fourth straight state championship?
"We have a full team," Fairmont Senior's Justin Sloan said.
The Bears were without several players in the first game against Catholic due to tests that day and injury. This time around, with a partial assist to the tournament's delay and eventual move from Beckley to Charleston, Fairmont Senior coach Jim DeNardi said his squad stands a much better chance than it did against the Irish in early October.
"We went down there and played them when we were short a couple of guys," he said. "Fletch [DeVaul], in the first five minutes of the game, tweaked his hamstring and couldn't play the rest of the game. At one time we were playing three or four freshmen on the field and our usual midfield was pretty much not there."
Today's state championship game between the Polar Bears and the Irish is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. at Trace Fork.nn
Hurricane has taken flak all year long for the fact it starts three foreign-exchange students who happen to be pretty good soccer players.
The Redskins have meshed the trio, who hail from Brazil and Chile, with other returning starters and found a way to turn them into a cohesive unit.
Unbeaten Hurricane (22-0-1) returned to states for the fourth time in six seasons and now finds itself taking on No. 2 Parkersburg at approximately 12:15 p.m. today at Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium at Coonskin Park in the Class AAA state championship game.
Senior Felipe Thompson from Santiago, Chile, has scored 47 goals to lead the Kanawha Valley while Rodrigo Bevaqua and Matheus Morgan have helped stabilize the midfield.
"Sometimes it does get to you,'' said Hurricane senior Alex White, who tallied a goal in the Redskins 4-0 victory over Hedgesville in Tuesday's semifinals.
"They are great players and they do help us. Even without them, we'd still be a great team. Felipe does finish and that's something we needed this year, but even without them I think we'd make it this far. I think we're a great team.''
The Redskins are also stocked with plenty of homegrown talent in seniors Alex White, Austin Conley, Trevor Cunningham, Evan Miles and Ian Miles and Daniel McKnight who have helped reach states for the third year in a row and only lost two regular-season games.
"Let's face it, if Felipe, Matt or Rodrigo showed up on anybody's doorstep, I'm sure they're not going to tell them we don't want you,'' said Hurricane coach Jim Dagostine. "We're very happy to have those guys. One of the interesting things has been to watch these guys match because it hasn't been easy. We've had our struggles, but this team is very much together. We're happy with our entire team.'' nn
Bridgeport did its best to stifle the high-powered Charleston Catholic boys attack, and for the most part it worked.
The Irish had scored at least three goals in every game they had played going back to the last week of September with two exceptions - a 3-3 tie against George Washington and a 2-0 sectional win against St. Joseph.
A large part of the game plan for the Indians revolved around slowing down Catholic's top scorer, senior Sam Revercomb.
Revercomb did finish with a goal and helped on a second goal in the Irish's 2-1 win, but Bridgeport coach Danny Hamrick said the plan was to keep Revercomb from taking over the game and that, for the most part, he thought it worked.
"He's going to beat you," Hamrick said. "He's that good but what you have to do is limit the times he beats you. I think we did pretty well today. There's no doubt he's going to beat you but you can't let him beat you repeatedly."
Bridgeport also accomplished something no team had done against the Irish since a 3-3 tie against Parkersburg on Oct. 9 - it scored.
Logan Lang's goal with just under four minutes to play was the first score Catholic had given up during the playoffs and ruined what would have been the 12th shutout of the year for the Irish.nn
When Bridgeport and Fairmont Senior meet for the Class AA-A girls state title today, it will be a matchup of teams with many similarities.
Both the Polar Bears and Indians dropped from Class AAA to AA this season, both play in the Big Ten Athletic Conference and both programs will be playing in a girls soccer state championship for the first time.
The schools, just 17 miles apart, met earlier this season, and the Indians got the better of the Bears in a 4-0 win in early October at Fairmont's East-West Stadium.
Fairmont Senior coach Debbie Cattafesta said Bridgeport coach John Reese told her after that game it would not be the last time the two rivals would meet this season, and he was right.
"After we played Bridgeport in Fairmont he said, 'We'll see you in the playoffs.' " she said. "He had it in his mind and I thought in the back of my mind, 'You're right. I'll see you there.' "
Cattafesta said the previous game against the Indians was one of the low points in her team's season and that she hopes what happened then might help to motivate her team in its most important game in the program's history.
"We had games when we were on and games when we were off," she said. "Unfortunately that was one of the games when we were off."