Martinsville soccer

Tanner Ingram (18) celebrates a goal during Martinsville’s win over Richlands Tuesday at Smith River Sports Complex. 

In their previous game, Martinsville’s boys soccer team struggled to find the goal, despite putting up shot after shot after shot. Through regulation and two overtimes, the Bulldogs scored just two goals off of 27 shot attempts.

In Tuesday’s VHSL Class 2 state quarterfinal matchup against Richlands, the Bulldogs were much more efficient.

Martinsville scored three goals on six shot attempts in the first 25 minutes of play to build an early lead. The Bulldogs defense did the rest as Martinsville defeated the Blue Tornado 4-1 to move on to the state final four.

All three of the Bulldogs early goals came the easy way – off of perfectly placed assists inside to a waiting player who simply tapped it in for the score. In the eighth minute, Wilson Bowles made a throw-in that Khalil Travis tracked down past two Richlands’ defenders. Travis then put in a pass in front of the goal to Reese Bell, who did the rest.

Seven minutes later, Bowles made another throw-in that went to the inside and landed on the foot of Tanner Ingram, who again gave it just enough to go past the Blue Tornado goalie.

With 15 minutes before the half, Martinsville struck once more. Travis had another assist, this time to Saul Guerrero-Devora, who was in the right place at the right time for the score.

“The whole season I’ve been looking to score goals. This is only my fourth or fifth goal, but I believe it’s the most important goal I’ve had my whole soccer career,” Guerrero-Devora said. “I was just excited. I just opened up, Khalil just gave me a good pass and I put it in.”

In last week’s Region 2C championship game against Giles, the Spartans forced the Bulldogs to take shots from outside, which added to the inefficiency. In Tuesday’s contest, the Bulldogs were able to get past the Blue Tornado defense much more easily.

“It was just something the other team allowed us to do,” Guerrero-Devora said. “There was a lot of space, a lot of spaces to get good balls, and it seemed to work. The other day against Giles we really couldn’t get in that easy so we had to shoot a lot and it was just how the game turned out today.”

The Bulldogs' scoring slowed down in the second half, which allowed Richlands a bit more breathing room on offense. The Blue Tornado had much more shot attempts in the second half – 9 in the second, 4 in the first – but Martinsville keeper Michael Devora kept them at bay. Devora made four great saves in the half, and had seven in the contest.

“He kept us in the game. All year long he’s made some really good saves,” Martinsville head coach Pete Scouras said of Devora. “He doesn’t get the recognition he deserves… but he’s just a really good goalkeeper. I’m so glad to have him and I’m so glad he’s just a sophomore.”

Richlands’ only score came on a 35-yard strike by Levi Forest that bounced off of the right post and into the net with 12 minutes to play.

The Blue Tornado shifted the momentum in their favor, and had two more attempts in the waning minutes that looked to be close. In the final seven minutes of play they had a shot that went just inches over the goal, and another that pulled out Devora and looked like it had a chance to roll in before Bulldogs defender Aidan Self made a non-goalie save to hold Richlands at one.

Martinsville put the finishing touches on the game with just under six minutes to play on a shot by Travis just outside of the box that got past the Richlands’ keeper.

Tuesday’s game was the Blue Tornado’s first appearance in the state tournament. They finish the season 16-6.

The win for Martinsville (21-0-2) ties a school record for most in a single season. The unbeaten Bulldogs will now set their sights on this weekend’s state final four, the first for the school since 2015.

“I’m really excited. I’ve never been there. None of us on the field have ever been there except coach,” Guerrero-Devora said. “I’m just excited. Hopefully we can make it to the state final.”

“Back to the final four. I’m so happy for these guys. It’s such a good group of guys to have that experience,” Scouras said. “From now on it’s just sort of like gravy sort of. Hopefully we can win and play hard.

“They’re a good team. Everybody is a good team now. So we’ve got to go to work. But to make it is shot in the arm for us. We’re the only one around here playing. Playing in June, that was our goal. It would be just awesome if we were playing in the last game. But we’ve got more work to do.”

Martinsville will play at Radford University Friday at 11 a.m. against an opponent still to be announced.

“I don’t know who we play but we’re going to Radford, and that’s all that really matters,” Scouras said.

Cara Cooper is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at cara.cooper@martinsvillebulletin.com

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