George Mason 1, Clarke County 0
Gregg Curtin scored the goal in George Mason's 1-0 victory over Clarke County in the Virginia A boys' soccer final Saturday night at Radford University, but the sophomore midfielder didn't have to think twice after the game about joining his teammates in a hero's celebration for senior goalkeeper Alex Fatovic.
Curtin scored in the 68th minute, but Fatovic's heroic play just four minutes earlier seemed to change the course of the game.
Fatovic made a diving save against Clarke County senior midfielder Gavin Kashani's penalty kick in the 64th minute. Though Kashani collected his rebounded shot, Fatovic regained himself to make another save.
"When I made those saves I just knew there was no way we are going to lose," said Fatovic, who was carried off the field by his teammates following the game. "I think we were looking for a boost and I think that penalty kick gave us it."
Yesterday's final marked the fifth time the Bull Run District rivals met this season. Interestingly enough, it was also the third time Fatovic faced a penalty kick against Kashani, the Eagles' leading scorer with 22 goals this season. The first slipped past Fatovic's fingers and into the goal, the second was unsuccessful when it rang off the crossbar.
Clarke County earned its only victory over the Mustangs (18-3-1) in the Region B final, 1-0, on June 4. The teams played one tie.
In the state final Saturday, however, Clarke County (18-4-1) had several opportunities in the first half to score and seemed to control possession through senior midfielder Ryan Gaal.
Several George Mason players said they had to contend with the short rest, having completed their 1-0 victory over Radford High on Saturday morning. The game had been suspended on Friday with about 12 minutes left in the first half; Clarke County had been able to finish its 2-0 win over James Monroe on Friday.
"I think they outplayed us a little bit in the first half," George Mason Coach Art Iwanicki said. "But we changed up our midfield lineup. . . . We added [another midfielder] and that seemed to help but [Clarke County] had their opportunities."
Perhaps no opportunity seemed better than the penalty kick that Gaal set up by slicing between two Mustangs defenders and absorbing an aggressive slide tackle from another in the penalty area.
"I'm speechless, man. I guess I gave it too much hype but I thought that was going in," Gaal said of the penalty kick. "I think we dominated the first part of the game. . . . I was a little angry with our play in the last 10 minutes."