Caleb Barnette's day mirrored the autumn weather.
The George Washington senior co-captain weathered some dark clouds Saturday before the sun shined through, scoring the decisive goal in the second round of penalty kicks to send the Patriots past South Charleston 1-0 in the Class AAA Region 3 Section 1 championship game. A crowd of about 250 attended the matchup of state-ranked boys high school soccer teams at Andrew Jordon Field at the Trace Fork Soccer Complex.
GW (15-5-2), the defending state champion that was fifth in the final state coaches association rankings, will meet No. 20 Woodrow Wilson (9-7-4) in the regional at approximately 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium. The Patriots shut out the Flying Eagles 2-0 Aug. 23.
All AAA regional games were originally scheduled for Thursday, but because of a scheduling conflict at Schoenbaum the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission permitted the GW-Woodrow game to be moved to a different date.
SC seniors Justin Bumgarner and Rashad Kincaid converted their penalty kicks while GW junior keeper Garrett Phillips and senior Garrett Warner made theirs to forge a 2-2 tie during the second round, which is a sudden-death format.
Black Eagles senior Jarod Jobst miss-hit his attempt and the ball slowly rolled just outside the right post without Phillips having to make a save.
Barnette, who was replaced early in the opening half before returning to his defensive position after halftime, followed by striking the ball confidently, sending it along the ground and just inside the left post and under SC senior keeper Hunter Moles for the clinching score. Barnette turned toward his teammates, who mobbed him along the way as he ran to the center circle to celebrate. Moles finished with seven saves.
"Just like practice,'' said Barnette. "Everything I do is routine. I really didn't think about the consequences. It felt good. That's how I normally hit my penalties. Hunter made a good attempt. It just went my way this time. I just guessed right. It's a penalty that I like.''
Barnette was having a tough day on the pitch, but GW coach Tom Hopper stuck with his senior.
"I wasn't playing my best and it was for the best of the team,'' said Barnette of getting benched. "I'm glad my coaches trusted me and put me back in.''
"The first 10 minutes he was really struggling,'' added Hopper. "It was a difficult decision to keep him in or not. We put him back in and he came through. It was sort of like a meant-to-be kind of thing. Sometimes you have to kind of go with your gut. My gut was there for him to take a PK.''