Park, Stonewall and Osbourn look to mount challenges at Cardinal District’s
Osbourn Park coach Larry Nemerow has much to be optimistic about in
The Yellow Jackets boast four returning first and second team All-Cardinal
District members in goaltender/midfielder Patrick McConnell, midfielder
Bo Lawrence and forwards Travis Tucker and Mike Littlefield.
Tucker was one of the districts leading scorers with 13 goals last year,
while Littlefield looks ready to blossom in his senior season after signing
a letter-of-intent with Coastal Carolina.
“We look to be a contender this year,” OP coach Larry Nemerow
The team already has started nicely, with a 2-1 win over arch-rival
Dominating possession most of the game and leading 1-0, the Jackets
let Osbourn back in the game with a penalty kick with less than 10 minutes
In year’s past, an OP squad may have packed up the tents, Littlefield
said after the Jackets rallied to score the game winner, but this year’s
team is hungry and not going to back down.
“We know we have the talent to contend this season,” he said.
“We are so much more of a team. We’re confident. You can look into
the eyes out there and see it. It’s desire.”
Finding a replacement in the defense for Greg Sisa will be the biggest
concern for the Jackets.
Last season, Sisa was the rock by which OP’s defense depended upon.
“Greg Sisa was not only a good player, but he was an inspiration
to his teammates,” Nemerow said. “I am hoping some of his effect
as well as the effect of the other seniors, gives us a head start on this
However, with McConnell in goal – at least for one half every game –
stopping foes shouldn’t be much of a problem.
The senior, who helped snap the Jackets out of a scoring slump with
a game-winning goal and a game-winning assist, last season, will most likely
be used as a field player one half of most games.
“Pat can do it all. He can play just about anywhere,” Nemerow
said. “I could tell him to do the water [for the team] and it would
be spectacular. Probably the best water we’ve ever had.”
Osbourn Park also has a bit of unfinished business to attend to.
In the Cardinal tournament last year, Osbourn Park lost to Woodbridge
1-0 in a lightning shortened game.
On the field, the Jackets were in control for the first 39 minutes,
only to have the Vikings score in the first half’s last minute.
As if on cue, the rain and lightning started soon after, and the game
was called in favor of Woodbridge per Virginia High School League rules.
“We still talk about that lightning game,” Nemerow said. “We
will not forget that. My hope is that we can take advantage of that lesson
and become a better first-half team.”
It’s easy to look at the Cardinal District and see one, maybe two things.
First there is Woodbridge. Ranked in national polls as high as No. 3
in the nation with talent to spare.
Then there’s Hylton.
The Bulldogs have been the Cardinal District’s top dogs for years.
That suits second-year Stonewall Jackson coach T. J. Shepardson just
Shepardson came to the Raiders program from the junior varsity ranks
the season before.
Stonewall was, at best mediocre.
“We had two wins the year before I started, and last year we were
4-7-3,” he said. “It’s an improvement, but I wouldn’t be lying
to say we expect much more this year.”
The coach has instilled a new attitued at “The Wall” as he
looks toward the future.
Already the program’s size has expanded.
“I didn’t even make cuts last year,” Shepardson says. “But
this year, I had over 50 kids come out for the team.”
Shepardson also got a little bit of help from a famous alumnus of Stonewall
– current New England Revolution of Major League Soccer goaltender Jeff
Causey gave the team equipment and supplies, and Shepardson is hopeful
it will be a lasting relationship with the Raider alum.
On the field, stopper Santos Romero anchors a solid defense at for Stonewall.
Romero is a physical player, who rarely allows players to get by him. He
also is an offensive threat on set plays with his jumping ability and skill
using his head.
At the midfield, James Walkinshaw is the play maker for the Raiders.
The senior had the game-winner in Stonewall’s win over Forest Park, but
Shepardson is expecting him to get even better as he gells with the team.
“James probably right now is trying to do too much,” the coach
said. “As he gets more comfortable and more confident in his teammates,
I think he’ll make us much better as a team.”
Seniors Jose Medoza and Brendon Cutler are two forwards with skills
that mesh nicely. Medoza is a blazer, who can get by most defenders with
his speed; while Cutler is more of a possession-type scorer, who will rely
on cunning and his teammates to get opportunities. Fellow forward Mike Lally
will also be a major contributor if the Raiders are to succeed, Shepardson
In goal, freshman Robbie Curry has shown flashes of the skill which
Shepardson believes will make him a four-year starter.
Graduation reered it ugly head at Osbourn last season and the Eagles
will be counting on youth in 2001.
The team lost Cole Wilson, Adam DeEsch and Sean McLaughlin, all of which
were solid contributors for the 8-5-2 team.
Senior keeper Dave Leonard is back in goal, along with seniors Victor
Calvillo and Andre Lind in the back.
“We hope to finish in the top four in what could be a very strong
district,” Osbourn coach Dave Larson said. “I think there is one
clear front runner in Woodbridge, then it’s anyone’s guess.”
The Eagles will have leading scorer Anthony Lewis back. The sophomore
midfielder was a second team all-district selection last year as a freshman,
as well as a first team MJM Sports All-Area selection.
“He will be counted on a bunch,” Larson said.
The other midfielders include Tony Pittman, a junior, and senior Chris
Larson points to the midfield as a strength, especially with the lack
of veteran forwards.
One returner up front is sophore Keith Osborne, a tall player who may
blossom this season. Osbourne has the speed and possession skills to be
a force up front, but must find a way to harness those features into the
Tigers coach Chip Rohr is at a return to the upper echelon in 2001.
Brentsville, which dominated the Bull Run District during the mid to
late 1990s, has fallen a bit the last two years.
Not that the Tigers haven’t been up to snuff, Rohr says, but the rest
of the district has caught up.
“Our district has definitely been the premire district over the
last five or six years,” Rohr said. “The state champion has been
from here for the past five years and the runner up has been for four years
in a row.”
The Tigers have MJM Sports Player of the Year from last season David
Tait returning up front.
Tait, a junior, led the Tigers with 13 goals and will be counted on
to lead the team from the midfield. Tait’s brother, Bobby, will be a force
at forward as well in his senior season.
The main loss for the Tigers was team most valubable player Ryan VanWingerden.
The fullback was a dominant presence in back and kept Brentsville in games.
Goaltending is still a question mark as the season starts. Rohr identified
three players as potential starters, but said any could be the man.
Last year, senior Jon Brendle broke his finger and was lost for most
of the season as his doctors advised him to sit out. His replacement, junior
Jeff Evans and sophomore Josh Kruger will battle for the job, Rohr said.
The coach also pointed to his junior class as the “back bone”
of the team.
Along with David Tait and Evans, juniors Tommy Fox, Brian Ingles will
be the leaders, as well as seniors David Baker and Dan Brown.
“I don’t know what to really expect,” Rohr said candidly.
“We should improve all over the field, and our goal is to get back
to the state tournament.
“I think it’s a realistic goal, maybe a bit more realistic than
getting there last year.”
Under its third coach in three years, Manassas Park is a team once again
New head man Rich Spagnolo has brought a lighter atmosphere to the Cougars’
camp, and the young team seems to have adapted well.
Gone are MJM Sports First Team All-Area selections Shane Ford and B.J.
But in their places are a hungry bunch of Cougars, Spagnolo says.
“We all want to improve,” he said. “And I think we’re
headed in the right direction.”
Midfielder Troy Ford gives the Cougars an explosive presence up front,
while Sylvestre Nila is also a force at midfield or in the back.
Sweeper Claudio Sepulveda is a player who has to dictate the team’s
defense, as his senior leadership will be needed with so much youth surrounding
Goaltending is a question mark, but sophomore Miguel Chavez has looked
good, Spagnolo said.