Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

April 25, 2014

Kicks on the pitch

Shots aplenty, G-Men win 3-0

EAST RIVER — Depending on which scorebook is correct, the Graham boys soccer team riddled Grayson County’s net with either 39 or 48 shots on goal.

They only managed to get three past Blue Devils’ goalkeeper James Williams.

“He did make us work,” Graham boys soccer coach George Aiello said. “He had a lot of nice saves, he played very well.”

Just not quite good enough, with those three goals being enough for Graham to blank the Blue Devils 3-0 on a rare spring-like Thursday evening at the East River Soccer Complex.

“I thought they played well today,” Aiello said. “This is the hottest we have played so far this year. The heat got to them, we are used to playing at 7 o’clock at night and not right at 5 o’clock in 75 degrees.

“I thought they hustled well for the conditions and I thought they moved the ball nicely. They played a good game, I am proud of them.”

Williams stopped at least 36 shots from the G-Men (6-3), not bad for a senior who had never played the game prior to this season.

“He is a very talented goalkeeper, he has got a lot of development to do,” Grayson County coach Brad Mawyer said. “Right now it takes a lot of raw athleticism. This is the first year he has ever played soccer so he comes in, he learns quick, he puts in a lot of work at practice and he has definitely been one of our rocks we can kind of lean on this year,”

Graham riddled the Grayson County (2-5) net with soccer balls throughout the evening, but managed to get just one past Williams in the opening half, taking a 1-0 lead at the break. That goal came on an unassisted shot with 14:30 left by Jonathan Figueroa, who has suddenly found the scoring touch.

“This was his second goal this year and his second goal of his high school career,” Aiello said. “That is back-to-back games he has scored, it is nice to see him get some goals too.”

Figueroa is normally Graham’s leader on defense, which rarely allowed the ball to penetrate the G-Men’s side of the field.

“Jon just controls that whole defense in the middle of the field,” Aiello said.  “He hustles, he wins the ball, and then he finds the open outlet to pass to, he gets up the field and back and I am real pleased with the way he has played.”

Grayson County attempted nine shots in the game, including three in the opening half, with freshman goalkeeper Brody Dawson stopping all of them.

“I thought the ball was on their side of the field the majority of the game,” Aiello said, “but when the ball did cross midfield our goalkeeper, Brody, did a great job.”

So did Williams, with his play enabling the Blue Devils to stay within a goal of Graham with nearly 20 remaining in the game.

“I am very pleased with our performance today, especially against a squad like this,” said Mawyer, who played collegiate soccer at Concord. “We are still growing here, we are still trying in our area to develop...

“This team is very young, I have very few seniors and we are a developing team so I look for big things, I am really proud of the way they held. The last two goals for Graham came pretty late, we held them to a one-goal game for quite a while.”

Finally, the G-Men got a couple of goals in succession, a Samuel Stowers kick following an assist from Logan Surface at the 20:13 mark of the second half, followed 10 minutes later by Nathan Figueroa, who kicked the ball in off an off an assist from Joey Littlejohn.

Getting the ball in the net more often is a definite desire for the G-Men.

“We have to figure out how to get the ball behind him definitely,” Aiello said. “He had some really nice saves in the first half. We had some corner kicks and we almost scored on headers and he extended that hand and saved so he did a great job, they played a hard game.”

Mawyer noticed, and was pleased with his Blue Devils despite the loss.

“I am very proud of their performance, there is a lot we have to work on and we were just talking about it on the field,” Mawyer said. “There is a lot of building we have got to do and we have got to get a little sharper with our passing and sharper with our shots, but definitely a step in the right direction.”

Scoring proved to be difficult for the Blue Devils, who had to contend with a veteran Graham defense that did its part to help make Dawson’s night in the net largely uneventful.  

“They work the ball well, they have got good building programs here, Mawyer said. “They have got a lot of development and the kids come up in a semi-soccer culture and that is always a big help against some of these big teams.”

Graham, which will host Tazewell on Tuesday and perennial power Galax on Thursday, came within a loss to Radford of reaching the state tournament last June.

Getting past that point this season is the definite goal for the G-Men, who are 3-0 against Southern Empire Conference (39) competition, with wins over Richlands, Tazewell and now the Blue Devils.

“Our goal is to make it to states,” said Aiello, whose G-Men dropped a deceiving 4-0 decision to Radford in regional play. “No Graham High School boys soccer team has made it to state so our goal is to make it to states.

“We were one game away last year and we want to get there last year.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

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