BECKLEY — George Washington senior Zak Abdul-Jalil knew exactly what his team needed to do Friday afternoon to earn a win in the Class AAA semifinals.
For Abdul-Jalil, it was about starting fast — and he made sure his team executed that brilliantly.
The Patriots were the aggressor from the onset, pressuring Hedgesville at each turn in a 3-0 win in the Class AAA semifinal over the Eagles at Paul Cline Memorial Sports Complex in Beckley.
“Our coach always preaches to get one in the first 10 minutes because that’s when they’ll have their most energy,” Abdul-Jalil said. “If we get one in the first 10, it will break their confidence.”
With the win, George Washington (22-2) moves on to Saturday’s 10:30 a.m. state championship game, where it will face Cabell Midland, which advanced with a victory in penalty kicks over University.
George Washington’s pace and space were vital to its success as the Patriots consistently moved through the Hedgesville defense.
The Patriots finished with a 20-4 advantage in shots and played at a different speed than their opposition.
George Washington head coach Erik Engle said it was a product of everyone’s work prior to the season’s start in August.
“They came into this season at mid-season level already and have just grown from there,” Engle said. “They are a fun team to watch.”
While George Washington’s initial goal did not come until the 17th minute — that being a header from Robby Nunley off a cross from Abdul-Jalil — the Patriots executed their plan of setting the tone with their runs.
Nunley scored the first two goals for the Patriots with brilliant runs by Abdul-Jalil setting up each, whether directly or indirectly.
On the first, Abdul-Jalil worked down the left side before sending a ball across the goal to Nunley, who made a backside run and finished the header.
While Nunley’s first goal broke the ice, his second broke the spirit of the Eagles in the 66th minute.
Abdul-Jalil used his speed to outpace the Hedgesville defense, which had no choice but to take him down in the box.
Soloman Clark’s penalty kick was initially saved, but Nunley was there to fire home the rebound.
“I knew there was a chance that was going to happen,” Nunley said. “I said, if the goalie gets it, there’s a chance it’s going to bounce in front of me. All my teammates told me to crash the goal, and that’s what I did.”
Six minutes later, the Patriots added the capper when Bryce Coleman made a strong run down the left side and worked the end line before sending a cross to E.J. Davis, who found Max Threthewey for a goal to punctuate the match.
As the Patriots look forward to Saturday, they face a Cabell Midland team that they’ve already seen this season. George Washington topped the Knights 3-2 earlier this year.
Midland wins on penalty kicks
Cabell Midland goalkeeper Cameron Grobe is no stranger to being in the spotlight on Fridays.
Normally, the dual-sport standout is performing duties for the undefeated Knights’ football team on Fridays, but Grobe showed his clutch gene on the soccer pitch on this November day.
This Friday effort put his Knights in the Class AAA boys soccer state championship against GW
Grobe made two saves during penalty kicks to give Cabell Midland a 4-2 win in penalty kicks following a scoreless affair for 120 minutes on the pitch.
Grobe finished with eight saves in the match.