JAMES CITY - The display case at Jamestown High is filled with boys and girls Bay Rivers District soccer championship trophies, not to mention lots of hardware for numerous regional titles and two boys Group AA state finals victories. This year, the Eagles have added a flair for the dramatic.
Less than three minutes from seeing their district title hopes essentially obliterated, Jamestown's girls snatched a 1-1 tie with Grafton last week on Nicolette Young's goal from 30 yards on a pass from Jaelyn Coates. That victory means that if the Eagles (7-0-1 district) beat rival Warhill on Friday, they'll edge Grafton (6-0-2) for the district title.
"That was awesome," Coates said of the late goal against the Clippers. "We want to go undefeated (in the district).
"Nicolette and I are the leaders and we try to be good role models. That was a moment to lead by example."
Patrick Kelly picked the final moments of regulation against Grafton's boys a night later to exhibit the same kind of leadership for the same kind of stakes. Grafton (5-1-2) had just taken a 4-3 lead on a Michael Trepte goal with about a minute to play in regulation.
Kelly dribbled through four players and drew a foul about 20 yards from goal. That resulted in a free kick that Phil Geyer lofted into the box for Cody Miller, who headed to Michael Connell. Connell in turn headed the ball into goal with 10 seconds remaining to tie the game at 4-apiece.
In the second overtime Kelly struck again. He ran onto a long pass from Dan Geyer and muscled the ball toward the goal while being challenged by three Grafton defenders. Then he slotted it into the corner with fewer than 10 seconds remaining to give the Eagles a 5-4 win.
Kelly's fourth goal of the game clinched the district title for the Eagles (8-0 district), who finish the regular season on Friday against Warhill.
"That was strictly our seniors saying they weren't going to lose, and Patrick Kelly, in particular, saying `I'm not going to lose,' " Jamestown coach Bobby O'Brien said.
That attitude is a must this year in Bay Rivers soccer, even for a programs as historically dominant as the ones at Jamestown. The boys have had to rally for victories against York and Grafton, while also fighting off a strong challenge from Lafayette.
Girls coach Kevin Dawson readily admits his girls could've lost to Tabb had the Tigers cashed in on their goal chances early in the game, and were fortunate to win against Grafton. The Jamestown girls and boys differ in their approaches, but their styles of play are key to their success.
Dawson prefers to build up with lots of possession. He thinks that style will make the team most competitive in the postseason, says it's fun for the fans to watch and that his players like it. Young says it fits the team's personality.
"We have great chemistry and communicate very well together," she said.
While Young and Coates are the strength of the attack, the girls team has benefited from the strong defensive play of Leah Matthews, Marissa Segala, Jordan Chapman, Alex Dayton and goalie Hannah Sams. The Eagles have allowed just one goal in the past five district games.
The boys were at their best defensively when they needed to be, shutting out Lafayette 2-0 in a defensive battle. The Eagles are anchored in the back by talented seniors Phil Geyer and Drew Friedrichs, who said the defense's success against the Rams was the result of its concerted effort to shadow standout midfielder Alfonso Speed of Lafayette.
But the defense has struggled often in the district allowing three goals to York and four to Grafton. O'Brien almost expected that, however, after switching to a formation this season that focuses heavily on constant all-out attacking.
So, the Eagles, who have averaged nearly eight goals per district game, have been able to outscore opponents when needed. Kelly leads the way with 20 goals, while Jon Cullom and Hunter Hartnett have combined for more than 30.
"It's a very direct style where we attack seven or eight guys," O'Brien said. "Everyone is involved and we spread the ball around to a bunch of different people, rather than depend on one person."
Both teams depend heavily on underclassmen in key spots, so big early wins were necessary to build confidence. The girls' win over Tabb was paved the way for their success, Coates said, while the boys comeback from a two-goal deficit in the win over national power Cox catapulted the boys.
"We're still riding that momentum," Dan Geyer said.
So, too, are Jamestown students, who are showing up at games in ever bigger numbers. Friedrichs said the crowd at the boys-girls double-header with Lafayette made him wonder if he was at a football game.
"Both teams doing so well at Jamestown builds respect," Friedrichs said. "It's a whole new atmosphere at the games.
"I'm glad football gets big crowds, but it's great to see another sport become a big deal at the school."