It was impossible to know it would stand up as the game-winner Saturday, but Albemarle’s Brandon Mahon knew he couldn’t afford to burn an opportunity like the penalty kick Andrew Weber drew in the opening minute of the Patriots’ rivalry clash with Western Albemarle.
He had to think through everything, including what some of the Warriors’ players knew about him.
“It was kind of tough knowing a couple of the guys they normally know where I go so I switched it up a little bit,” Mahon said. “It was pretty close to getting blocked but I’m thankful it went in.”
Mahon scored there and added a second goal on a freekick with 15:34 to play for insurance to vault Albemarle to a 2-0 win over the Warriors.
“Any time you get scored on in a minute you’re not quite ready, but it was a foul,” said Western coach Milo Oakland.
The victory clinched an undisputed Jefferson District regular season championship for the Patriots despite not getting a second meeting with Charlottesville after weather forced that rematch’s cancellation earlier in the week.
While Albemarle’s dynamic offense rightfully draws a lot of the attention with an array of scorers and creators like Weber and Daniel Starr, the squad’s defense made a big impact Saturday. They shut out a Western team that came in a little worn down after playing three other games since Monday but red-hot after a 3-1 victory over Charlottesville. With Thomas Leckrone in net and a strong group of seniors including Logan White, Nicholas Buck and D’Artagnan Lazar in front of him, the Patriots were able to neutralize Western throughout. Throw in an array of defensively-savvy midfielders like Roshan George and Ethan Tribastone it’s pretty tough to score on the Patriots.
“We’ve got four really solid seniors, they’ve played together a lot and been through a lot as a team and as individuals so they just have that kind of understanding that all really good defenses really need,” said Albemarle coach Zach Laird.
That unit also makes a big difference for the offense because they allow Albemarle to keep attacking and creating. That’s crucial against a team like Western that boasts a defense capable of locking things down too with Jed Strickland prowling the backline.
“Our defense came up huge today, (Western) has a lot of offensive firepower and especially playing three in the back, having a solid three is huge for our confidence,” Mahon said. “It makes my job easier not having to come back as much and gives me more opportunities to get at the goal.”
Despite the 2-0 score, Western showed well, creating a lot of chances to force that solid Albemarle defense into some tough spots. Considering they were coming off an emotional Thursday night win over Charlottesville, it was a particularly impressive effort against an Albemarle team that went unbeaten in the district slate.
“In the game we gave as much as we got in terms of opportunities and aggression and possession but we just didn’t have that special thing you need to beat a good team like that,” Oakland said. “They honestly didn’t play badly, I thought we played really well. The score was deserving but they really just capitalized on two set pieces.”
Western faces off against Fluvanna County Monday night in its regular season finale before jumping into Class 3, Region C play while Albemarle starts postseason play in Class 5, Region D Thursday at home against the winner of William Fleming and Halifax’s first round game.