In sudden death overtime, Loudoun Valley had the executioner.
The Vikings traded scoring opportunities with Kettle Run’s boys soccer team during 10 minutes of the first overtime and 8 minutes of the second overtime Tuesday before Jefferson Martinez controlled a ball flicked by Ryan McLaughlin in the middle of the box.
McLaughlin leaped high to get a touch on that ball, thrown in from the right sideline with less than two minutes remaining in the sudden death session. Then Martinez made a quick turn-and-kick to score the winning goal inside the left post and end the Kettle Run Cougars’ impressive late-season run with a 3-2 Vikings victory during the semifinals of the Class 4 Region C tournament on the road in Nokesville.
“It was intense the whole way,” Valley coach Sean Welge said. “We’d just been telling the guys, ‘You’ve got to be aggressive. Just keep fighting and it’ll eventually fall.’”
After scoring the winning goal, Martinez ran up Kettle Run’s side of the field, glaring toward the home crowd with his teammates swarmed around him. Last time the Vikings had played into sudden death overtime, Martinez also clinched a “golden goal” victory for them in 2018.
“That’s why they’re a little crazy [celebrating]; pumped up,” Welge said. “He’s having a heck of a time. … He’s definitely our come-to guy when it comes to golden goal.”
The victory gave Valley a 13-2-3 record, a state berth and a spot in the region championship game against Park View, while Kettle Run’s season ended at 10-9-1 and one win short of advancing to state for the fourth time in program history.
“It’s not easy” to accept, Cougars coach Philip Roper said. “But I know every guy that was out there left everything on the field. … Both teams played until they were ready to drop.”
Some of the Cougars literally dropped to the ground as the Vikings celebrated Martinez’s goal.
“We’ve experienced both sides of it,” Roper said. “Two games ago we were the ones celebrating like that after the Sherando game.”
The Cougars beat the Warriors 2-1 in sudden death overtime May 21 before beating Millbrook 4-2 in the final to earn their ninth region berth in 11 seasons. They won the Class 4 Northwestern District tournament championship despite finishing the regular season only fourth in the standings, so they entered the region tournament on an 8-4-1 run after overcoming their early-season struggles.
“I feel pretty good because every [loss] was a close one,” Roper said. “Then we finally found that click where we started doing the little things. … They started to build confidence and came into this game feeling good.”
They felt even better when Lucas Tabit gave Kettle Run a 1-0 lead over Valley with 19 minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the first half. He intercepted a bouncing ball kicked up the middle of the field by the Vikings’ goalkeeper and passed it to Clayton Pfeiffer on the right wing. Pfeiffer then crossed the ball, which missed the foot of a charging Kris Schulte by only inches before Tabit ran onto it near the left post and scored.
“The whole game they’d been going back post,” Welge said. “It took a goal for us to finally understand.
“It was uncomfortable, of course,” he said of the 1-0 deficit, “but they knew what it takes to work hard and get back in this game.”
In fact, the Vikings needed less than eight minutes to take a 2-1 lead. Mason Field tied the game on a penalty kick with 13:30 remaining in the first half, and 75 second later he scored again on a deflected ball assisted by Johnny Dugger.
Field is “so good at driving forward, one-two touch going up the field, but his great part of the game is his vision,” Welge said of Valley’s leading scorer this season. “He’s a great team leader for us. He’s only a junior and he’s doing great things for the program.”
The Vikings scored all of their goals after Kettle Run center back Luke Watrous left the game early with a shoulder injury.
“He’d be the one to calm everybody down,” Roper said. “Without him there, we kind of panicked a little bit. … But I thought our defense did really well considering we lost our leader in the back.”
So the Vikings out-shot Kettle Run 23-14 in the game (11-6 on goal) with Cougars goalkeeper John Otooni making eight saves. Valley also had 15 corner kicks to the Cougars’ six.
Regardless, Kettle Run forced overtime on a Richard Meseg goal with 2:14 remaining in the second half. He scored after Max Pillow controlled a cross from John Hamilton and poked it a few feet forward through Valley's defensive line to give Meseg a one-on-one opportunity.
The fiery senior midfielder celebrated his goal with a primal roar as he sprinted toward the sideline before stumbling to the ground.
“He brings all the intensity for us,” Roper said with a chuckle.
Hamilton also played with particular passion in the midfield. The senior made many defensive stops while also creating scoring opportunities on the other end of the field.
“John is always that calming presence in the defensive midfield where he can switch the ball around,” Roper said, “but this game he played with a ton on intensity.”