Millbrook boys top James Wood in overtime

WINCHESTER — Hamilton Lopez wasn’t in the huddle when Millbrook head coach Rhonda Cottino praised him the first time, but his delayed arrival meant the entire team got to hear an important message once he arrived.

“[Lopez] didn’t get the goal, but he did the work that led to the goal,” Cottino said.

Lopez was fouled inside the penalty box 55 seconds into overtime and Will Demus converted the ensuing penalty kick for the only goal of the extra session as Millbrook defeated James Wood 2-1 on Thursday at the Colonels’ Kelican Stadium.

The Colonels (1-2-1, 1-1 Class 4 Northwestern District) led 1-0 at the half with a 7-5 shot advantage, but the Pioneers (4-0, 3-0) outshot them 10-2 over the remainder of the game. Garrett Johnson scored the equalizer with a straight-on direct kick from 28 yards out in the 64th minute that he deposited into the right side of the goal.

As for the winning goal, Cottino couldn’t have been happier that Lopez played such a big role in making it happen. Lopez made a run into the box with the ball at his feet before he was knocked to the ground about 20 seconds after Zach Myers made his eighth save of the game for James Wood on a long-range shot.

“I’ve been saying for many games that, ‘Hammy’s time is coming, Hammy’s time is coming,’” Cottino said. “And here it was today. He’s just a fabulous kid, and his effort is always 110 percent. He’s always picking his teammates up, and he does exactly what I ask him to do. He puts the ball down and he drives forward with speed.”

The Pioneers were happy to finish the game much stronger than they started it.

“Going into the half, I guess our heads were a little bit down, but we knew we had them,” Demus said. “We knew we were the better team. We just had to actually play like the better team.”

Emotions were pretty high at times in a game that featured some rough play, verbal exchanges and a few yellow cards. None of the Frederick County fields play particularly smooth in the harsh weather conditions of March, and another windy day added to the difficulty of getting into a rhythm.

“It was a typical sloppy, physical, district game,” Cottino said. “It’s not going to be pretty, and I feel like every time we come here, this is the way it starts. We had to get rid of our typical possession through the midfield, because you can’t possess through the midfield here. We were really just working to serve our speed into the width [of the field] today, which paid off. It just took way too long to get there.”

Millbrook had a chance to get the win with the help of another beautiful free kick by Johnson, who sparked the Pioneers to a victory against Sherando in the season opener with a direct kick goal from 22 yards away. Demus instructed Johnson where to put his free kick against the Warriors, and he did the same on Thursday. Demus ran over the ball without touching it, and Johnson delivered.

The Pioneers nearly won the game in the final couple of minutes of regulation, but Myers made three outstanding saves in succession while going to the ground on shots in the box. The first came from 15 yards out, and the last two were within 10 yards of the goal.

But in overtime, Millbrook struck quickly. Before Cottino said that Lopez does what he’s told, Lopez stated that he followed Cottino’s words about taking a hard, direct path with the ball to apply pressure on James Wood. The foul was called, and Demus stepped up and drove a low shot with his left foot into the lower portion of the goal.

“I usually go to the same spot,” Demus said. “I already decided where I was going before I took the penalty.”

Millbrook pretty much shut down James Wood from there. The Colonels flicked one header backward toward the goal in the first half of the 10-minute overtime, but Brant Upson (four saves) had no problems securing it.

James Wood scored nine minutes into the game when defender Chris Viera sent a long pass up the middle to Colby Fields. The senior forward headed a bouncing ball down, ran onto it and fired it in. Cottino said she warned her team about a situation like that, and she felt her team responded well to prevent long balls from causing damage the rest of the game.

“We had to win the ball at the highest point so it can’t hit the floor and they can’t go forward with it,” Cottino said.

Cottino credited James Wood for giving the Pioneers their toughest game of the season. Millbrook hopes it can continue its hot start once it finally resumes play on April 8 at Sherando.

“I think we’re going to outwork every team we play against,” Demus said. “We just have to stay composed.”

Lopez said the Pioneers’ depth should serve them in the future.

“The players who come off the bench bring the same intensity as people who start,” he said.

The Colonels’ roster was a little thinner this week than they would have liked. Freshman forward Daylin Paige missed both of the Colonels’ games this week due to a club soccer commitment in Florida.

James Wood second-year head coach Ronald Velasquez liked the effort from his team, though, and felt like it played well enough to win.

“They fought,” Velasquez said. “They came out here hard. We had opportunities in the first half that if we put away, it opens up the game for us. It was a 50/50 game that could have gone either way. I’m proud of the guys for the battle they put out. It wasn’t an easy game at all. It’s just unfortunate we lost.”

Velasquez liked what Fields — who played eight games in goal in the second half of last year but didn’t play much in the field — did filling in for Paige at his forward spot.

“He made a heck of a run in behind early in the first half, and had a heck of a finish,” Velasquez said. “He’s a physical guy who runs at guys. He did well today.”

In the preseason, Velasquez said he was looking for stronger play at goalkeeper this year, and Myers is providing it. In addition to making several outstanding saves, he did well coming off his line to collect the ball and nullify Millbrook opportunities.

“He made big saves and kept us in the game at times,” Velasquez said.

Though James Wood lost Thursday, the Colonels are clearly a stronger team than the one that went 4-13 last year, with one of those victories a forfeit victory against Handley. James Wood tied Class 2 power Clarke County on Tuesday after losing to the Eagles earlier this year, and hammered Sherando 5-0 after losing all three meetings with the Warriors last year.

“Last year there were a lot of games we were in, we just couldn’t finish,” Velasquez said. “This year, the guys are rolling. The level of improvement that they’ve had, the atmosphere ... the guys are fighting harder, the senior leadership is better, the captains are filling roles, and a lot of young guys are doing big things for us.”

James Wood will host Liberty in its next game on April 8.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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