Landon Clay – Athlete of the Week – November 1, 2019


Photo Credit: Daniel Burke

Few understand the intricacies of the technical brand of soccer Cape Henry Collegiate has demonstrated throughout the past decade. Many view the style as slow, but a possession dominated gameplan has proved successful for the back-to-back DI State Champions, who have also won six of the past ten TCIS Tournament Championships. Relying heavily on the courage to play this brand of soccer, the Dolphins have continued to develop technically sound, cerebral, and team-first athletes throughout this historic run for Cape Henry Collegiate. While the vast majority of High School programs pack in the defensive end and rely on counter-attack opportunities, the Dolphins, led by this week’s Athlete of the Week, senior Landon Clay, have defied the typical High School model of soccer and are continuing to reap the benefits of possession.


The Dolphins earned their eighth-straight TCIS Championship berth, taking on the Bulldogs from Norfolk Academy for the eighth time in ten years on Friday, October 25. For much of the conference tournament, and particularly Friday’s TCIS Finals, it was Landon Clay setting the tone for the Dolphins. Controlling the midfield and performing as Head Coach Dave Brun’s extension on the field, Clay committed to the game plan and carried the Dolphins to a 3-1 TCIS Finals victory over the Bulldogs.


“I think the TCIS Finals was his best game at Cape Henry so far, and this is a kid who scored what proved to be the game winner in last year’s state final game,” Head Coach Dave Brun began of Landon Clay. “He started this one off two minutes in, setting the tone in the midfield and controlling all aspects of play.”


Four minutes into Friday’s Finals, Landon Clay received the ball just outside the top of the 18, strides into a shot from outside the area, and punished the Bulldog frame with a shot the keeper failed to hold. The shot led to the night’s first score, which Gavin Dooren put away. With Clay creating chances early in the contest, the dynamic of the Dolphin offense was firing on all cylinders and led to the early, 1-0, lead. The Dolphins proceeded to find the back of the net once more in the first half to carry the most dangerous lead in soccer, 2-0, into halftime.


“In our sport, you really have one time to make adjustments, guide the team to the finish line, or try and turn the momentum back your way,” Dave Brun continued. “ During Friday night’s halftime of the TCIS finals, the team was managing a two-goal lead, while also on the verge of breaking the game wide open. The very nature of that creates a mixed message, and it was Landon who really took the lead in being patient and sitting in a position on the field and even, at times, inviting our opponents to come out and play.”


Understanding the moments to attack with a two-goal lead in soccer is a difficult ask of a teenage student-athlete. Too much, and you will get caught on a counter-attack and forfeit the momentum of the night. Too little, and you are at the mercy of the opponent’s pressure. Clay’s understanding of this on Friday night was a sight to see. At times, forcing the play to wings on the attack, and others pushing the Academy ten-man backline to step forward to create space, Clay was all over the field at precisely the right moment.


“From a year ago, he has improved his ability to read situations, make the right choice with the ball, and at his best; control the flow,” Coach Brun finished of Landon Clay. “He is one of the best athletes on the team, and as the competition narrows, we will need him to impact the game by timing himself to the ball, disrupt plays on a pro-sized field, and utilize the size in an ever-increasing awareness to connect passes to give us a little bit of everything.”


Peaking at the right time, Landon Clay will once again lead the Dolphin midfield as Cape Henry Collegiate enters the Division I State Tournament with the #1 overall ranking. Awaiting the results of tonight’s first-round matchup between Woodberry Forest and Trinity Episcopal, Cape Henry will be back in action Monday, November 4, in hopes of reaching the team’s third-straight DI Title match. With Landon Clay in top form, the Dolphins will continue to chase history and become the first program to win three-straight DI Championship since records were maintained in 1998.