With both teams allowing an average of only one goal per match in the regular season, the rules were simple: The first team to two goals wins.
Gilbert sophomore Brad Mason provided that magic number in the 13th minute of the second half to propel the fifth-seeded Gilbert boys soccer team to a 2-1 victory over fourth-seeded Tucson Salpointe Saturday in the 5AI state quarterfinals at the Tempe Sports Complex.
Mason called his secondhalf header the biggest goal of his life. “We came out hard. We laid it all out there,” said Mason of the Tigers (14-3-1), who face top-seeded Phoenix Brophy in the semifinals Tuesday night at Mesa Community College.
“Brad’s been a big force all year in the box,” Gilbert coach Jeff Perry said. “It’s nothing new for him.”
Each team scored once in a physical first half. The Tigers struck first with a breakaway goal by senior captain Ross Wood in the game’s sixth minute. After each team swapped shots that bounced off the crossbar, the Lancers (11-5-0) answered with a header by Charles Blase in the 23rd minute.
Wood said the team talked about making some adjustments at halftime. “We saw what they had to offer and we came out with more intensity,” he said. “We knew we could beat them. We just wanted it more.”
That intensity was more apparent in the second half, as the clock was stopped twice – once for a yellow card against Gilbert senior Alex Cannis and another for a Salpointe injury.
Time of possession was nearly even in the first half, but the Tigers controlled the ball in the second, especially after Mason’s game-winner, preventing the Lancers from getting a real chance to tie the game.
After the game, Perry told his team that the state championship is theirs if they continued to play like they did.
In particular, Perry was impressed with the ability to shut out Salpointe’s leading scorer, Fernando Gauna, who scored more goals for the Lancers this season than the rest of his team combined. “Our ability to keep Fernando in check was big,” he said. “We were able to get pressure on the ball quite a bit.”
Perry also credited goalkeeper Brian Davies for limiting the Lancers to one goal.
Davies made a diving save 10 minutes into the first half, then made another early in the second.