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AXTON, Va. – 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 against Giles in the Region 2C finals.

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 Blues’ 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.

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 took much more shots 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.

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.

The Blue Tornado finish the season 16-6. Tuesday’s game was the school’s first appearance in the boys soccer state tournament.

Martinsville remains unbeaten on the season at 21-0-2. The Bulldogs will play Friday at 11 a.m. at Radford University against an opponent to be determined.

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