RADFORD — Patrick Kelly and Hunter Hartnett have the sort of vibe that comes from playing together for years, each knowing where the other will be on the soccer field at any given moment. Their telepathic connection lifted Jamestown to the brink of its ultimate goal.
Exhausted from a relentless second-half push, Hartnett still found the energy to track down and to head in Kelly's no-look cross with seconds remaining to give Jamestown a beyond-dramatic 3-2 win over Jefferson Forest in a Group AA semifinal Friday at Radford University.
"Sometimes it's just will that gets it done," Eagles coach Bobby O'Brien said, "and not necessarily skill and things like that."
Will and skill landed the Eagles (18-1-1) in Saturday's noon title game against Tuscarora, a 4-1 winner over perennial power Blacksburg in Friday's other semifinal.
The Kelly-Hartnett connection capped a dominant second half in which Jamestown erased a 2-0 deficit that could have easily been double against the defending state champs.
"At halftime, we talked about, don't worry about getting three," O'Brien said. "Get the first one. We said if we get the next goal, no matter if it came in the first five minutes or with two minutes to go in the game, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win."
Kelly, the prolific forward, had tied the game with 7 1/2 minutes remaining on a penalty kick after Jefferson Forest goalkeeper Jeremy Lee clubbed him as he went up for a header in the box. Matt Cullom's header off of a Phil Geyer corner in the 59th minute got the Eagles on the board and provided offensive momentum that they never relinquished.
"I kind of felt like my goalkeeper made a good play on the ball," Jefferson Forest coach Jedd Zaring said. "The official saw it the other way, and that's a tough call to make with seven minutes left in the game. Credit Jamestown because they were pressing us. They had a lot of chances and with the wind at their back, they've got guys that can serve the ball. We were on our heels and when you're defending that much, sometimes they go in. That's what happened."
With the game knotted at 2, each team had offensive chances in what turned into an end-to-end sprint in the final minutes, with Jamestown converting the last opportunity. Kelly received the ball with his back to the goal at about 15 yards in front of the left post, turned and crossed the ball toward the right post.
"Hunter and I have done a lot with (Virginia) Legacy," Kelly said, referring to the Williamsburg-based club team. "I always know that Hunter or Jon (Cullom) is going to be in there and so I just put it there and hoped that one of them would get on it.
"I knew Hunter was in there, Hunter was hungry to score and I just put it there. I knew once I saw Hunter get to it, I knew we were in business."
Said Hartnett: "Pat sent a beautiful ball across and I just did everything I could to get a little touch on it and it just happened to be enough."
Jamestown's second half negated a loose defensive three-minute span of the first half. Jefferson Forest's Ben Jackson punched in a ball from in front of the goal after Jamestown keeper Trevor Hartnett got caught in traffic when he came off line.
Seconds later, Eagles' back Mike Connell hustled back to make a goal-line save. Jefferson Forest (21-1-1) made it 2-0 two minutes later when Tyler Bullock lifted a header over Hartnett after a booming goal kick by Lee bounced into the box, and the Eagles' defense misjudged the ball.
"In the first half, we came out shaky, nervous," Hunter Hartnett said. "We were afraid to get too many people forward. They've got a great goalie who can send the ball right back down our throats. Once we built into the game, we settled down and we got the ball moving and we didn't have a problem from there."
The Eagles drew upon their season opener, a 3-2 win over traditional Group AAA power Cox from Virginia Beach, a game in which they also trailed 2-0.
Jamestown last won the state title in 2008 and its senior-heavy squad fell in the semifinals each of the past two seasons.
"We've gotten here twice before," Hartnett said. "We've had a lot of close games the past couple years, but this tops them all."
The Eagles hope to say the same thing Saturday afternoon.