Panther soccer advances in district, community

RCHS players Andrew Oyster (7) and Amrit Tamang (9) work together to strip an opponent of the ball.Bonnie Lofton
RCHS players Andrew Oyster (7) and Amrit Tamang (9) work together to strip an opponent of the ball.

Over the past week, Panther varsity boys’ soccer battled for position in the Bull Run District and still found time to reveal their inner integrity by, once again, giving back to their community.

The boys are no strangers to service. Team members have already volunteered at Lynn Care in Front Royal and the Child Care and Learning Center (CCLC) in Washington. On Friday (May 4), the Panthers traded cleats for work gloves and traveled to repair the stone wall near the Rappahannock County Visitor Center. “They braved ticks, briars and poison ivy to clear the area between the stonewall and the visitor center,” said coach James Lofton. “They also removed brush, debris, and trees so that there could be a Civil War reenactment in that space this September. Two hours of vigorous work left a cleared area and a tired but satisfied team.”

“We dedicate three practice days and one weekend day to community service, and the boys owe me two hours of individual work. These are all just opportunities to give back and put into practice the principles that we talk about and go over daily.”

On the competitive field, Panther varsity boys’ soccer (7-5-1) notched their sixth and seventh victories by defeating Bull Run District rivals Strasburg and Central Woodstock. In the game with Central, Rappahannock secured its third consecutive win and its second straight shutout. The Panthers also moved firmly into fourth place in the district behind Clarke County, Manassas Park, and George Mason.

Tuesday, May 1, saw a solid victory over the visiting Rams. The boys’ varsity team controlled the ball for most of the game and, late in the first half, sophomore Shane L’Amoreaux notched a goal with an assist from junior Case Kramer. As the second half progressed, the Panthers sought a second goal to put them firmly ahead on the scoregoard. Midfielder/forwarder and captain, Jon Letsen, came up big off a corner from Amrit Tamang to carry the boys to a 2-0 win.

As a sequel, the team traveled to Woodstock on Thursday (May 3) to square off against district opponent Central (Woodstock). “The game opened with zealous defending from both sides,” Lofton said, “but Amrit opened the match up with a bit of individual footwork and a well-struck shot that jetted into side netting of Central’s goal. With us leading 1-0 at halftime, the boys came out hungry for a match-clinching goal.”

Panther diligence and pressure paid off in the 49th minute when Tanyon Lee was taken down in the penalty box as he went to goal with the ball. Tanyon converted the resulting penalty kick into a goal, and the Rappahannock went on to their second shutout in a week.

“We shut them down, and they got angry,” Lee said. “That got into their heads, especially during the second half. We were on their side of the field pounding on them, getting shots. Amrit got the ball at halfway line, I sprinted to the outside and passed it downfield, beating three guys on the line. I went straight to the keeper, faked it. He dove for it and I went to the right. I had a clear goal, but he came to me and wiped me out. The ref caught it and I got a PK [penalty kick] which gave us a 2-0 lead. After that, we just locked in defense and let no one take shots. It felt so good!”

“The boys have come so far as a team.” Lofton said. “They are starting to put it all together. Their hard work is paying dividends. They are beginning to conceptualize and practice good, hard, respectful soccer that lasts for 80 minutes. They are starting to place faith in one another, and their success is driven by positive encouragement, mutual support, and perseverance. I have said all year that the sum of their parts is greater than any one individual, and the level of their cohesiveness and industriousness reflects that concept.”

Panther boys soccer plays its final, regular season home game on Tuesday, May 15, against Madison. It will be a night to confront the Mountaineers, and a night to honor RCHS senior soccer athletes.