Any trepidation George Washington might have felt at the outset of Saturday’s Region 3 boys soccer championship was put to rest shortly after the Patriots charged out of the gate.
They dominated the early stages of the game at Trace Fork and rode that burst all the way to a 5-0 victory against Greenbrier East, sending the defending Class AAA champions back to the state tournament in Beckley.
GW (21-2), qualifying for the state tournament for a ninth straight season, squares off with Region 2 titlist Hedgesville at approximately noon Saturday.
Solomon Clark had a pair of first-half goals for the Patriots and Max Trethewey added two more in the second half to go along with a score by E.J. Davis.
GW dropped a 2-1 decision to East during the regular season, but quickly erased those memories when Saturday’s game began. The attacking Patriots got five corner kicks in the first five-plus minutes and held a 12-0 advantage in that category for the game.
“For these boys, it’s important to them to redeem themselves when they’ve had an unlucky result,’’ said GW coach Erik Engle. “And it was important to them [Saturday].’’
Solomon’s second goal was assisted by Zak Abdul-Jalil, and Engle was quick to point out Abdul-Jalil’s importance to the squad.
“We had a few changes about five games ago,’’ Engle said, “and we took the state defender of the year [Abdul-Jalil] and moved him to striker, which is a position he’s never played, and the change has really energized the entire team. We’d gotten stale, which really started about the last time we played East. We realized we needed to do something to really turn up the energy.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete and he can play any position. And you can also say Solly [Solomon] is just an absolute warrior. We missed having him last year when he transferred [out of state] but from his sophomore to his senior year, the difference in his play is just night and day.’’
Kevin Tiffey and Julian Westfall recorded the shutout in goal for GW, with Westfall covering the final six-plus minutes.
Greenbrier East (11-7-2) played a man short for the final 11 minutes, 37 seconds after Joseph Londeree was given a red card, disqualifying him from the match.
Spartans coach Lucas Lemine lauded GW for learning from the first meeting between the teams.
“They definitely had a point to prove,’’ Lemine said, “because we beat them once during the season, and they had something to play for, and they did it. They’re an excellent team.’’
Lemine said GW’s success came from applying constant pressure to the opponent’s back line. About 80 percent of the match was played with the Patriots on the attack.
“They just don’t retreat once the attack is over,’’ Lemine said. “They leave those outside backs forward and put pressure on everyone else, and congest things really well.
“They knew where we were passing the ball before we passed it today. They had a great game plan, and knew what we were going to do, and executed. The first time we played them, they didn’t have any film to watch or anything to really scout us off. That’s a state championship team; there isn’t any doubt about it.’’