The disappointment was obvious on Kyle Butcher’s face as he grabbed the Region 4D runner-up trophy.
The Jefferson Forest midfielder shook his head while accepting the hardware from JF Athletic Director Jedd Zaring and couldn’t wait to put it down.
It was almost like it was red-hot.
A short distance away, Western Albemarle’s soccer team was triumphantly hoisting the championship trophy in the air, cheering and celebrating the 3-1 win over the Cavaliers in the Region finale.
In a match that took three days to complete, the Warriors scored two unanswered goals Saturday to claim the Region championship on JF’s home field. The match originally began Thursday, but rain and lightning forced officials to suspend the contest with 6:57 left in the first half and resume again on Saturday evening.
Shortly before the game was suspended Thursday, Butcher had knotted the game at 1-1 and the Cavaliers began to gain momentum against the stout Warriors, who had scored their first goal near the midway point of the first half.
When the two teams faced off again Saturday evening, JF never got that spark back.
And at the end of the game, the Cavaliers were deflated. Gone was the euphoria from earlier in the week when they beat rival E.C. Glass for the fourth time this season to reach to the Region finale.
They looked like the season was over.
“This was one of our goals that we set out for at the beginning of the year,” said JF coach Scott Zaring. “We weren’t able to achieve it, so it’s definitely going to hurt. But ultimately the goal is the state championship and we’re still in the mix.”
The Cavaliers will try to get back on track Tuesday against Region C champion Tuscarora in Leesburg. (The game ended after press time. Check out the Bedford Bulletin next week for highlights).
If they win then, they will advance to the state semifinals against either Great Bridge, the Region A champs, or Powhatan, the Region B runner-up, on Friday at Chancellor High School. The state championship will follow on Saturday at Chancellor HS.
“Initially it’s going to sting a little bit but we’ve got a quick turnaround,” Zaring said. “And Tuesday, we still have something to play for. We’ve got a redemption effort ahead.”
The coach refused to blame the layoff for Saturday’s setback. But it was costly in that senior forward Walker Stebbings, who is the school’s assist record-holder and a main cog in JF’s offense, was injured during practice on Friday.
He took a couple of big hits on Saturday against the physical Warriors and was unable to finish the game.
“I would have liked to have seen him at 100% tonight,” Zaring said of Stebbings. “I’m not sure that changes the outcome, but certainly it feels like we were a little bit less than 100% tonight. But that’s not why we lost.”
In addition to Stebbings, JF was without the services of starters Chris Wiley, a junior midfielder, and Christian Kavana, a sophomore midfielder, who is nursing a strained MCL.
Zaring expects to have Stebbings back for the Tuscarora game, but the other two will likely be out the rest of the season.
“It’s a little unlucky for us, but that’s not going to be a reason why we don’t win,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to play.”
He noted the experience his team gained against Western Albemarle will play a role against Tuscarora and any other team JF meets should it advance.
“They’re a lot alike,” he said. “(Western) was the most complete team we’ve played. They have high quality players at every spot. They’re physical, but they also play really good soccer. They earned it tonight. They did a really good job at finishing their chances and getting that trophy.”
Zaring hopes there are more trophies in JF’s future. Ones that will not elicit the kind of reaction the runner-up trophy did on Saturday.
“Road underdogs, you never know what can happen,” he said. “We’ll put our best foot forward. We’ve got a quick turnaround and a long bus ride, but we will prepare for it and go get it.”