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Kettle Run’s middleman for success: Garrett Magill facilitates Cougars’ soccer wins

Monday, May. 25 | By Jeff Malmgren
Garrett Magill dominates 50-50 balls in the air as a Kettle Run center midfielder. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
*Editor's note: This story originally appeared May 20.*

Tom Hanks and Garrett Magill are congruous.

Hanks yells the name of a volleyball. Magill yells his own name at a soccer ball. And each of those screams has helped create a great performance.

Magill's "Cast Away" is the Kettle Run boys soccer season. He has a leading role in it as the Cougars' center midfielder, and they have played to a 13-0-1 record (as of Monday). Magill has been so important, in fact, that Kettle Run coach Philip Roper calls him "The heart and soul of our team.

"He's everything that every coach could want in a player," Roper said of the senior. "He controls the middle of the field."

Magill often dictates play in the midfield by winning 50-50 balls, especially by using headers. It's those airborne balls that can entice him to yell his own name. He will typically shout, "Garrett," a habit learned while playing for his Annandale United FC 96 travel team. Its main purpose is to communicate with teammates by distinctly calling for the ball rather than using vague alternatives such as "Mine," or "I got it."

For Kettle Run, Roper says that Magill wins 90 percent of the balls in his vicinity.

While that's an unrecorded statistic subject to exaggeration, it's hard to watch a Kettle Run match and not see that Magill wins the vast majority of free balls around him. His aggressive attitude has a lot to do with that ability, but his vocal enthusiasm doesn't hurt. It can add an extra element of intimidation to his game.

"When I scream my name in the middle and win a ball, after a while, kids on the other team will stop trying for it," said Magill, who will play for the United States Coast Guard Academy next season. "Soccer's a big game of little battles. I've got to win every single one. That' the mindset I have."

Magill usually impacts matches most by facilitating possession rather than directly creating goals. Even after scoring two goals Friday during a 5-0 win over Fauquier, he has only five goals this season for a Kettle Run team that averages five goals per game.

"It's nice to score goals because you get publicity and people talk about you," said Magill, who also has five assists. "I don't put up huge stats, but I like to see that I'm setting people up. I get plays started.

"Maybe a through ball to Jed [Dalton] on the outside," Magill said. "He'll cross it in and we'll score."

During the Cougars' first 13 games, Reece Cooke led them with 16 goals, while Dalton had 13 goals and 11 assists, and Kevin Coleman had seven goals and 14 assists. So Magill has watched his teammates score a lot. Last season, in fact, forward Evan Szklennik had 20 goals en route to setting the Cougars' career-scoring record at 67.

Magill has 13 career goals and 17 assists as a four-year starter. But that's because he has embraced a role that often limits his scoring opportunities.

"You pretty much put him out there and know he's going to control the field," Roper said. "Almost everything we do runs through him."

That's often how the Cougars transition from defense to offense. Magill also serves as a team captain who keeps the Cougars focused, Roper said, and the senior's intensity energizes his teammates. His headers often do the invigorating.

"I've gotten really good at judging goal kicks or punts," the 5-foot-11, 155-pound Magill said. "You scream your name and get up for the ball – the adrenaline … People always say how much it pumps them up.

"I love winning headers,” he said. "It's definitely something I take pride in."

In part due to Magill's impact, Kettle Run leads the Conference 27 standings with a 7-0 record. Ultimately, the Cougars hope to return to the state tournament for the second time in program history. Last season, they lost during the Class 3A state semifinals to Blacksburg, 3-2, and finished with a 17-2 record.

One of the foundations of Kettle Run’s success in 2014 was getting the first touch on 50-50 balls. That remains a core of Roper’s soccer philosophy, and few players match Magill in pleasing their coach in that realm.

Magill's talents even caused Roper to casually discuss genetic engineering with Cougars assistant coach Paul Bourdeau during a recent practice.

"If we could just extract some of his DNA and inject it in all the [future] players that come to Kettle Run," Roper said, recalling the conversation. "We would be fantastic.”

Brotherly love-hate

Tears helped the grass grow in a half-acre field next to the Magills’ home in Warrenton.

Theoretically, at least.

Garrett Magill and his two brothers often played soccer against each other on that plot of land, and compassion didn’t rule the competitions.

"We would never come inside laughing," said Magill, the second son of Bernie and Lorna. "The younger one would come inside angry and crying about the older one being mean. ... It's really competitive."

Mike, 20, is the oldest Magill child while Justin, 15, is the youngest and Garrett, 18, falls between them.

"It wasn't rare that it heated up pretty quick," Bernie Magill said of the competitions between Mike and Garrett. “His older brother didn't have any pity on him. He toughened up fast.”

Garrett Magill calls those battles the source of his strength in the midfield. He doesn't shy away from contact, which allows him to aggressively pursue unclaimed balls.

"You learn how to be physical and take hits just from messing around in the yard," Magill said. "It’s a lot of yelling and screaming at each other ... but that's what made me as good as I am, and Justin as good as he is."

Roper recently moved Magill's younger brother, a freshman, up to the Kettle Run varsity team from the junior varsity. Meanwhile, Magill's older brother, with whom he previously played two seasons at Kettle Run, is a sophomore at James Madison University.

During one afternoon last week, after Roper canceled Kettle Run practice, all three Magill boys happened to be home together. So they grabbed a soccer ball and challenged each other on that field next to their house. With a rebounding net backed by a right-angle alignment of trees that stops missed shots, the boys often alternate playing goalkeeper against each other.

"I had all three of them out there," their father said, "and I was thinking, 'I don't know how many more days like this I'll have.’”

Garrett Magill will report to the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., on June 29. He received his appointment certificate and signed for his scholarship Sunday at Kettle Run.

Magill's path to that end began around age 4 when he started playing soccer. He later joined a recreational team, and by age 8 he ended up on a travel team as a result of seeking better competition.

"At 6 years old, some people are picking daises and looking at the sky," Magill's father said. "He was, 'Boom.' He's always been just so focused."

Magill sometimes scored double-digit goals in a game at the recreational level.

"Parents were getting mad at me and yelling at my dad," he said. "I was so competitive. I was used to playing with my brothers."

Ready, AIM

Garrett Magill wore a wide smile and a thumbs-up as he walked toward his father's car in July.

He had just finished the Coast Guard's Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) program – essentially living as a cadet for a week in Connecticut – and his dad was there to drive him home to Virginia.

"Some kids were looking at their parents like, 'Get me out of here,'" Magill's father said. "They were dying. … But I think it's perfect for him."

During the ensuing drive south, Magill told his dad the academy simply felt right.

"I loved it," he said. "It was awesome."

Magill plans to study mechanical engineering and then undertake the five-year service commitment required by the military academy.

"It's not like the Army or the Navy where you're going into battle," Magill said. "The Coast Guard goes out and actually saves people. I think that's a big deal. Even just saving one person's life, that affects that person's whole family.”

Magill said he's interested in getting stationed somewhere such as Florida, where he could work with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or in Alaska, where he could participate in ice-breaking missions.

"I want to have a big impact on peoples' lives," he said.

Magill considered attending Washington and Lee University, Longwood University and Radford University, but then he visited the Coast Guard Academy.

"I got to hang out with a bunch of guys on the [soccer] team," he said. "It was fun, but it also seemed like a challenge. … I like a challenge."

Plus, becoming a Coast Guard officer appealed to the leader in Magill.

"His leadership is perfect for the military," his father said. "A lot of it comes from the Boy Scouts. … It puts you into a lot of situations where you have to take some leadership."

Magill began as a Cub Scout in first grade and ended his participation at age 18 as an Eagle Scout. That program helped him become a better leader on the various soccer teams he’s played for over the years.

"I was able to talk with my coaches and feel comfortable," he said. "It was nice this year, I was able to step into a big captain's role [for Kettle Run]. I was able to really lead."

That attitude is one reason Cougars coach Philip Roper believes Magill will excel at the Coast Guard Academy.

"I just know he's probably one of the best kids I've ever been around," Roper said. "He's the type of kid, you hope he's the one that's dating your daughter."

Roper also believes Magill could have an immediate impact on the academy's soccer field. The Bears finished last season with a 13-3-3 record and qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament.

"I think they know he's a good kid, but once he gets there they'll realize he's a" steal, Roper said. "They're going to be really, really lucky to have him. ... I can see him being a big contributor, and he could be right off the bat."

- - - - -

The Garrett Magill File

Family: Father, Bernie, is vice president of Advanced IT Services. Mother, Lorna, is a CPA and controller for the Fauquier Health Foundation. Brother Mike, 20, is a Kettle Run graduate and sophomore at James Madison University. Brother Justin, 15, is a Kettle Run freshman soccer player.

Favorite athletes: Kyle Beckerman, U.S. National team soccer player. “With the crazy dreads. He’s kind of like me where he’s not real flashy, but he does what he needs to do.”

Favorite sports team: Denver Broncos. “My mom is from New Mexico, and lot of my family [is] either Cowboys fans or Broncos fans. … And my dad’s a Redskins fan, so there’s no way I would ever be a Cowboys fan."

Favorite city: “I’ve visited Denver a couple times … for a [soccer] tournament and because I have family there. It’s just less hectic than New York or D.C., and one of my favorite things is how close to the Rocky Mountains it is. … Just beautiful.”

Pregame superstitions: “I try to stay away from that stuff. I just show up and play. If you have superstitions and you’re not able to get them done before the game, you step into the game and already have doubt in your head: ‘I'm not going to play well.’ That’s just another reason not to work hard. I always tell myself, ‘No excuses.’”

Favorite movie: “Rudy.” “I was a big Notre Dame fan growing up, and I love how inspiring it is. … I used to watch ‘The Waterboy’ a lot. It’s one of my dad's favorite. It's stupid funny.”

Favorite place: “When I was a kid I used to love going to creeks and stuff and just messing around in the water. I love water and animals.”

Favorite T.V. show: “The League.” “I watch on Netflix. It's just funny watching those guys and their fantasy league and them talking smack."

Favorite actor: Will Ferrell. “All his movies are kind of out there, but they’re hilarious.”

Favorite music artist: Zac Brown Band. “I like country just because it's pretty relaxed … and easy to sing along to.”

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