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A superstitious habit from Jamestown Coach Bobby O'Brien once again proved fruitful during Saturday's Virginia High School League Group 4A State Boys Soccer Championship.
Starting nine games ago, O'Brien began buying bottles of Coca-Cola with the name "Jeff" on it – an ode to Jamestown's star player Jeff Wolons. Wolons continued having success after the first bottle, so O'Brien continued buying them.
Before Saturday's championship game, O'Brien bought three more bottles with names on them – "Jeff," "Kevin" and "Brandon." The three players for whom the bottles were intended – Wolons, Kevin Tripp and Brandon Jordan – all scored goals to help lead Jamestown to its third state championship in eight seasons under O'Brien, defeating Hanover 3-0 at Liberty University.
"It's one of those funny little things. It's just weird how things work out like that," O'Brien said with a laugh after the game. "The kids love it and find it funny. I thought it was very entertaining today."
O'Brien and the rest of Jamestown's team had good reason to be in high spirits Saturday, as the Eagles controlled the pace of play for 80 minutes against Hanover, which they defeated 2-0 during the 4A South championship game.
Kevin Tripp opened the game for Jamestown in strong fashion, finding himself on the receiving end of a long goal kick. The ball bounced around in the box before Tripp picked it up and ripped a low shot past Hanover goalkeeper Adam Farnsworth for the game's opening score just six minutes into play.
"With Jeff attracting all the attention he does, [Kevin] has had to step up," O'Brien said. "Today he played fantastic. He was connecting passes, dribbling the ball, creating chances on goal and he scored a great first goal – a hard-working goal."
With a 1-0 lead in hand, Jamestown continued attacking the Hanover defense by collecting the ball in the midfield before sending a long ball over the top to their forwards hoping to create one-on-one scoring opportunities.
The strategy, which helped Jamestown reach the state tournament, continued working in the championship game. With 33 minutes eclipsed in the first half, Jordan found himself on the receiving end of a well-placed pass from Wolons.
The Hanover defender covering Jordan lost his footing while in pursuit, leaving Jordan in a one-on-one scoring opportunity with Farnsworth. Jordan capitalized on the opportunity, slotting a low shot underneath Farnsworth into the lower left corner to put Jamestown on top 2-0.
After an eventful first half, the second half featured a slower pace from play from the Eagles in an attempt to burn clock.
It seemed fitting that Jamestown's final goal of the season was scored by Wolons, who dribbled through a tightly packed group of Hanover defenders before slipping the ball into the lower-right corner of the net for the game's final goal with 12 minutes eclipsed in the second half.
"It was very satisfying," Wolons said about capping off his high school career with a goal – his 46th of the season – in the state championship game. "I had some trouble in the beginning of the game, but putting that away was such a great feeling."
The final 28 minutes of the game featured plenty of "stall-ball," with the Eagles (20-1) holding possession in the midfield before booting the ball upfield and forcing Hanover to start possessions deep in their own end.
With the game safely in hand, O'Brien made some mass substitutions and allowed his younger players to see the field during the waning moments of the 2015 season.
As the final buzzer sounded, Jamestown players sprinted off the bench and celebrated the program's second championship since 2012 and third in eight years.
"It feels fantastic to win three in eight years," O'Brien said. "I think we've shown that Jamestown is the program around the state, and that's all because of these kids. They buy into it at a young age. To end it like this is fantastic."
Jamestown 3, Hanover 0
Goals: Jamestown (Kevin Tripp, Brandon Jordan, Jeff Wolons)
Assists: Jamestown (Jeff Wolons)