Senior Josh Grant headed in the winner with eight minutes left to give Mason the ‘‘anybody’s game” victory over an incredibly feisty Turpin team Wednesday night at Lakota East High School.
‘‘They (Turpin) put us totally on our heels the first 10 minutes,’’ said Mason boys varsity soccer coach Paul Reedy. ‘‘They had four or five corner kicks, three or four throw-ins that pinned us in, and our goalkeeper (Spencer Parrish) made a good save in the very first minute of the match.’’
- Photos: Turpin falls to Mason
It was a shame that two undefeated teams had to play in the regional semifinals instead of later in the tournament.
The little things – and one never knows what they are going to be –conspired to give Mason the 1-0 victory.
Grant, a defender who scored 16 goals this season (that ought to tell you what kind of athlete he is), attacked a good service from fellow senior Caleb Griffith. Sometimes, Reedy plays Grant at midfield in certain games, but Grant scored a lot of those 16 goals as a back line player.
“He’s a quick jumper,’’ Reedy said, ‘‘and he gets high in the air, and has great timing to attack the ball at the height of his jump – it allows him to get above other players… When you drive the ball with headers from that range, it is so difficult for ‘keepers to make the save.’’
The ball snuck in just beneath the Turpin crossbar. Grant ripped off his shirt and pogo’ed toward his teammates to celebrate. They knew it was going to extremely difficult for Turpin to match it, given the sturdy defense that both teams had been playing all night.
‘‘I saw the ball come up, and everybody moved forward,’’ Grant said. ‘‘I remember thinking, ‘They (the Turpin defenders) are going to miss it.’ It was just reaction on my part to snap it in. Fortunately, it was high enough that the ‘keeper just missed it.’’
Despite being outplayed the first half, the Mason Comets felt good about its chances in the second half because the wind was with them. Everybody in the house knew this was going to end up a 1-0 game. A lot of bending, but only one breaking. Except for the one goal, which was a matter of sheer talent and determination, it’s impossible to imagine two teams playing better defensively.
For an impartial observer, the winning goal was clinical. Only in Mason’s reaction to it, did any emotion enter into it. In a way, it seemed to happen in slow motion, even though it was over extremely quickly, with the snap of a head.
And it was even more impromptu than many spectators imagined.
Mason, typically, does a long throw-in whenever they get down into the first 20 yards of the field, and Grant usually goes to the front post and tries to flick it back to a teammate for the score. But this time, Grant and fellow senior Conner Couchot agreed ahead of time, just before the play, to switch up. Couchot took the front defender, which took him out of the play, allowing Grant to crash through.
Turpin had two defenders right there – just as they did all night – but, unfortunately for them, the ball was in that perfect place where only a leaper with eerily good timing was going to be able to snap it just above the goalie’s out-stretched arms.
It was one of those things that had a touch of cinematic drama to it, because the lights were right in Grant’s eyes before head met ball.
Despite the joy of victory, Grant was unabashed in his praise for the way Turpin played. It wasn’t false praise, but rather from the heart, two heavyweights throwing their best shots all night long.
This, folks, is what Greater Cincinnati soccer is all about.
“A great team, probably the best team we played all season,’’ Grant said of Turpin. ‘‘Our goalie played amazing – first 10 minutes, three saves. It was crazy. They were at our throats… We were able to pick it up the second half, kind of woke up. It was equal after that… When we made the goal, we felt good, because we knew how tough it had been all night.’’