George Washington coach Tom Hopper doesn't read much into early-season victories.
"Everybody's figuring out who's supposed to be where,'' he said. "You constantly make adjustments.''
That's the main reason No. 5 George Washington (15-5-2), the defending state champion, and No. 20 Woodrow Wilson (9-7-4) are meeting for the second time this season at approximately 7:30 tonight in the Class AAA Region 4 boys high school soccer final at Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium in Coonskin Park.
All AAA regional games were originally scheduled for Thursday, but because of a scheduling conflict at Schoenbaum the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission allowed the Region 3 boys and girls games to be moved to a different date. The regional winners move on to the state tournament, which will take place Nov. 2-3 at the YMCA Sports Complex in Beckley. (See Page 2B for regional pairings.)
The Patriots defeated the Flying Eagles 2-0 in late August but a lot has changed for both teams. GW wasn't sure what it had after replacing seven starters from last year's title team while Woodrow slowly built up steam as the season wore on.
"[We're] familiar from the standpoint we know a couple of guys they have,'' Hopper said. "Once again, they've moved some bodies around so it's not all familiar. I look for a really competitive game. You just never know. We've improved a lot since then and I'm sure they have, too.''
Goals should be at a premium when GW and Woodrow match up this time.
The Patriots escaped sectional play with a 1-0 victory over No. 7 South Charleston in a penalty-kick shootout. GW has only scored four goals or more four times this season, but junior keeper Garrett Phillips and his defense have posted 13 shutouts, including the last two games.
Woodrow, which defeated Oak Hill 1-0 in its section final, has nine shutouts in its last 11 games behind senior keeper Casey Young.
"We've seemed to go in spurts,'' said Hopper of scoring goals. "On the flip side, we've been able to hold other teams the majority of the time in check.
"I guess we feel like one goal's enough. We've had a lot of opportunities. In practice there's been a lot more emphasis on in-close shooting and adverse-situation shooting. This has not been as productive a group as far as the number of goals, but we're able to get them when we need them.''
The Patriots' top scorer is junior Noah Miller with 12 goals, followed by senior Garrett Warner's 10 and junior Peter Nelson's nine.
Hopper said the GW players feel as if they have been granted new life after the close call with SC in the section final this past weekend.
"We all know that we were very fortunate to come out of it with a victory,'' he said. "We could have been done. You could tell there was a lot of relief.