Damascus Inferno boys cap off successful run with Ralph Downey Memorial Classic championship
By Jimmy LaRoue
Saying goodbye is never easy, but it was a little bit sweeter for Damascus Inferno coach Jeremy Spoales after his team took the Boys U-19 Nike championship at the Ralph Downey Memorial Classic this weekend in Virginia Beach.
After a tough, 3-2 loss to West Windsor-Plainsboro SA Biancoverdi in its opening match, Damascus Inferno rallied to win its next two games–4-2 over Virginia Rush Nike and 1-0 over Churchland Soccer Dynamo–to get a rematch, and then defeated the tough New Jersey side 3-1.
Spoales, in his fifth year with the team, noted the team’s progress through that time.
“We started out at Division 5 and rose up to Region 1. It was an amazing run with a great core group of kids, great group of families and it’s been the best experience of my life.”
He said the core group and the families have been key to the team’s improvement.
“A core group of kids stuck with a team they believed in,” Spoales said, also praising the many families who “stuck by me and stuck by each other and really built this thing to what it is today.”
With most of the players on the squad high school seniors, getting them all together for practices has been difficult, but the foundation the team already had has played a key role in the Inferno’s success.
Against WWPSA Biancoverdi, Damascus had to pay close attention to the New Jersey side’s key forward, but overcame that with a defensive change that kept him at bay. It also helped spread the field, which Spoales believes helped wear down Biancoverdi in the end.
“Their striker up top was just phenomenal,” Spoales said. “He was just a beast up top that commanded a lot of attention, and he was able to beat us in the first game a couple of times. And we knew that so we had a different defensive technique, which allowed some other guys to get free, which opened the field for us a bit more on the wings.”
Spoales got key contributions over the weekend from Patrick Pato, who will be playing at University of Maryland, Baltimore County this fall, as well as Nick Civetti and Ben Fleri, who came back to play with the club after their freshman year at Catholic University, and Ibrahim Zefa, who plays center back on the team along with Jacob Press. Zefa is one of the few juniors with the Inferno.
Thomas Alvarez, another key standout, is going to Montgomery College-Rockville to play.
“The team is just loaded with kids [who] have done exactly what we needed them to do and have been successful doing it,” Spoales said.
He said he has focused on being a teacher first and hopes the family atmosphere and quality around the club will prepare them for their future endeavors. In winning the Ralph Downey Memorial Classic, Spoales couldn’t have asked for a better sendoff for his team.
“We went to [the Potomac Memorial Tournament] last year, which is obviously a very competitive tournament, but this is a tournament that, in the beginning when nobody let us in, they let us in,” Spoales said. “It’s a beautiful area. You get to stay near the beach. We’re very big into family, and this is a chance where we could bring families and sit by the beach, but also go play some competitive soccer and some really good teams.”