FREDERICKSBURG – Coach Brooks Tomazin and his Northern Lebanon boys’ soccer squad had been knocking on the door for the last few games of the season, but hadn’t been able to finish. In the thrilling final ten minutes on Thursday, the young Vikings finally did just enough to get their first win of the year – one which will hopefully propel them on a second-half run – beating the visiting Cedars of Lebanon 3-2, on their newly minted home turf field.
The last eight minutes of the contest saw Lebanon score both of its goals, after being shut down by a stout Viking defense and senior goalie Sean Williams for 72 minutes. Williams played great throughout, controlling the back half for much of the day, being active in and out of the net.
“I’m very lucky to have had Sean for my first two years of coaching, he’s great, we’re gonna miss him for sure when he graduates,” Tomazin said. Sam Hillegas was also mentioned, along with Caleb Belsak, for standout defensive performances on the day and slowing down the fast, athletic Cedars.
Williams was peppered with numerous Lebanon opportunities over the first 15 to 20 minutes of the match. The Vikes only had one real chance at about the 30-minute mark, but neither team could take advantage of their shots.
NL finally started to control the ball in the midfield with Nathan Klinger and Trevor Peirce doing a great job of footwork and deft quick passing, placing the ball to their wings on point, and of course to their senior standout Simon Grimes, a college soccer recruit and a solid high school basketball performer. Grimes finally broke through, thanks to a nice assist from Garret Bowman, with a low-lining left-footed drive from the 18, after shielding off a Lebanon defender at the 23-minute mark of the first half.
Early on, the Cedars were led by Heriberto Reyes Martinez, who his coach, Doug Hunter, calls their “energy guy”. Reyes Martinez made constant runs at the NL goal. Octavio Madrigal Estrada also had some great looks early. but was unable to connect. He did however net on one of the two goals at end of the game.
The Vikes, along with Grimes and their young front line, including Wil Hilegas’ high energy, helped to turn the tide and allow NL to control much of the game and keep the ball firmly on Lebanon’s defensive side. Lebanon did have a few small glimpses, and coach Hunter noted his, “teams have had a tough time getting off to quick starts, and need to figure out a way to find their feet in front of the goal sooner, finishing…” Coach Hunter also discussed his pleasure with the play of his strong senior class, although he’s excited about his younger group of juniors and sophomores coming up, as well.
Lebanon had point-blank looks several times in the second half, even with the Vikings controlling the ball. With 20 minutes to play in the second half, the Vikings seemed to finally put their foot on the Cedar’s throats with Grimes receiving a nifty feed from junior Trevor Pierce to put the Vikings in a commanding 2-0 lead. Grimes followed it up 8 minutes later with a thrilling explosive attack through several Lebanon defenders, tossing them to the side for his third goal and the first hat trick of his career.
Coach Hunter was glad to finally see Grimes play in person, although he was hoping not to be the victim of his one-man show. Hunter noted he “plays with tremendous poise, and his size helps him quite a bit.”
Just as it seemed the game would be salted away by the Vikings, the Cedars popped an exciting goal after several misses. Within minutes they repeated that feat, and with three minutes to play, fans started thinking they might be in store for some extra soccer. Christopher Estrada-Vazquez led the Lebanon charge in this final flurry, whom his coach calls “the backbone of the team, and is still working his way back from injury.”
Lebanon was never able to muster another true goal-tying attack, although a late cross looked promising. But center striker Grimes was at it again, hustling back on defense to break up the play, and when he also booted a last-second Lebanon free kick with 20 seconds to play, the win was sealed in front of a solid crowd on a perfect afternoon.
Of note, this game was only able to be played because of the new turf field installed at Northern Lebanon, most other games locally were canceled due to heavy rains all morning.
Lebanon now sits at 3-5-1 overall and is looking at an uphill battle for districts, being in an ultra-competitive 4A field. Both coaches said they’ve played everyone they will in the second half, so it’s a matter of how they respond to what they’ve learned.
Senior star Simon Grimes said after the game, “it was fun getting the win, we’re a good young team, and feel there’s some teams we can still beat.”
Northern Lebanon head coach Tomazin made sure to stress that, “the kids are working hard, they’ve grinded every day in practice, they’ve been in almost every game and have leads, they just haven’t been able to get a win. But this feels great!”
Both county clubs, both with a lot of youth, NL having only 4 seniors, will focus on making the back half of their seasons better than the first.