In a game that Mustang fans will remember for some time to come, George Mason High School locked horns with Rappahannock High School for 99-and-a-half minutes last Thursday night before sophomore Anthony Andrianarison’s golden goal gave the Mustangs a 1-0 win and a District tournament title.
The game was fast-paced and physical from the opening whistle. The Mustangs had several chances to score but were unable to get any shots into the Rappahannock goal, and the game remained knotted at 0-0 going into the second half.
The pace of play stayed frenetic in the second, as the Mustangs nearly scored on several occasions, including a couple of well-placed free kicks by junior Wesley Frank. Junior Antonio Randrianasolo had several runs up the left that were near-goals, but was just a step late every time.
While Rappahannock’s offense did not get nearly as many chances as Mason’s, they had several well-timed runs that threatened the Mustangs’ defense. Every time, however, the defense rose to the occasion.
“I think they were outstanding,” Mason Head Coach Art Iwanicki said of his defense following the game. “[Rappahannock] got some good cracks, but we handled everything that they could give us.”
The intensity and length of the game soon began to take its toll on the players of both teams, as several Mustangs’ legs began to cramp up and required stretching both on the field and on the sideline. Players scrambled for water bottles at every opportunity. Iwanicki said that during the breaks he told his players to stay hydrated and to try to play as many minutes as they could.
With the game still tied at 0-0 at the end of regulation, the teams played two regular five-minute overtime periods. The game remained deadlocked through both, and the game then went to two five-minute sudden death overtime periods. With the pace slowed slightly and neither team able to break through the other’s defense, it appeared as though the game would end in a tie and be forced into penalty kicks. Iwanicki had his penalty kick list all written up.
But that’s when Andrianarison took over. Brought up to central midfield by Iwanicki for the overtime period, after having played the entire game at the back, Andrianarison found some space near the top of the box with a little over 30 seconds remaining. His right-footed shot rocketed past the keeper and into the back of the net, sending the Mason players and fans into celebration. In the post-game awards ceremony, Andrianarison was announced as the Bull Run District player of the year.
“Is that justice or what?” Iwanicki asked following the game. “He showed that he was the best player in the District tonight.”
Iwanicki, who is now in his 34th season coaching soccer, stopped short of calling the game the best he’s ever been a part of, but acknowledged that it certainly has its place among the best.
“It’s up there,” Iwanicki said. “But I’ve had some great games. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some great teams. But it gets better from here, because you go to Regions and go to States and that’s really like magic. Because that’s what it’s all about.”
As pleased as he was with his team’s performance following their win in the District tournament final, Iwanicki was less than impressed with his team’s effort and intensity in their quarterfinal win over Wilson Memorial High School in the Region B tournament.
Randrianasolo’s goal with 6:33 remaining in the first half proved to be the deciding factor as the Mustangs were able to hold on for a 1-0 victory.
Randrianasolo came up with a steal off of one of Wilson Memorial’s defenders, and then managed to get one on one with the goalie and chip it past him for the score. It was one of several scoring opportunities the Mustangs had in the first half, as Randrianasolo, freshman Nick Smirniotopoulos, sophomore Anthony Andrianarison, senior Jack Settje and sophomore Elio Randrianasolo all had close shots on goal.
The Mustangs’ defense survived a few close calls in the second half, as the Hornets threatened on several occasions. Mason held strong, however, behind the strong goalkeeping of senior Eric Casteuble.
“I thought we were slow and we were hot and we didn’t move off the ball very well,” Iwanicki said, noting the 90-degree and humid playing conditions.
Iwanicki expressed his concern over the way his team handled playing in the heat, saying that regardless of temperature his team will have to bring a better level of intensity if they hope to win during the playoffs.
“This looked like a league match to me,” Iwanicki said. “Not a playoff match.”
The Mustangs take on Nelson County High School today in the semifinals of the Region B tournament. If they win, the Mustangs will make it back to the Virginia Class A State tournament. Results of the game were not available at press time.
Notes: The State tournament begins June 5 … Andrianarison was named as an honorable mention to the Washington Post All-Met team.