Last Friday night, the George Mason High School boys soccer team battled lasting rival Clarke County to a 2-1 Mason victory. As many players and fans would agree, Mason vs. Clarke County games are always filled with intensity and passion.
However, the reasons behind the Mason-Clarke County rivalry are a mystery. One star Clarke County player said they “don’t know why we’re rivals, but we’re always competitive with them and are usually neck-and-neck in the championship tournament.” Mason star and senior captain Eion Oosterbaan said, “I don’t know why Clarke is our rival, but it’s an intense game whenever we face off, no matter what sport it is.”
Oosterbaan was right, as from the first whistle the intensity and desire to win from both teams was evident. Mason was displaying its ability to effortlessly connect passes while Clarke County was relying on its undeniable athleticism. The championship atmosphere was in the air.
Mason’s use of fundamentals led them to its first goal halfway through the first half. Freshman Kavon Nowroozi centered the ball in front of the goal for Oosterbaan who passed his defender to receive. He then slid the ball past the charging keeper and into the net.
Mason refused to let up despite its lead. Senior captains Brendan Fribley and Ze’ev Lailari were unbeatable on defense and freshman Ned Quill was hustling too, and winning, nearly every loose ball. Junior Sebastian Umerez was solid in the goal as well. Mason’s work as a unit gave them a slim lead at halftime of 1-0.
“We possessed the ball with patience and purpose, defended and pressured as one unit, and took advantage of our chances,” head coach Frank Spinello said.
The second half began much like the first, with both teams driving towards goal with everything they had. To score Mason’s second goal, Oosterbaan slaughtered the ball into the far corner, which made the bench rise with amazement. This gave Mason a sturdy 2-0 lead, which Umerez preserved when he made an save against a Clarke County player on a breakaway.
With nearly two minutes remaining, Clarke County headed the ball into the goal off of a corner kick. This lead to an all-out scramble to prevent Clarke County from tying up the game. With the help of saves made by Umerez, Mason ended the game with a 2-1 victory.
“We all played perfect Mason-brand soccer and showed our district why we deserve to be on top,” Umerez said.
This game is a prime example of why Mason and Clarke County have such a competitive rivalry. Since the start of the state tournament in 1999, the Mason boys have won five championships and Clarke County has won three. Combined, the teams have made 12 championship appearances. Occasionally, the teams battle each other five times, three of those times being in a championship game. Therefore, the primary reason for the Mason-Clarke County rivalry is the everlasting competitiveness between the teams.
“I think both teams have a lot of respect for each other, and there is a lot at stake every time we play,” Spinello said.
Mason continued an impressive performance to beat Central High School 3-0. Mason controlled possession from the very first minutes. To score the first goal of the game, Mason sophomore Truman Custer received a through ball from Oosterbaan, which he slid underneath the keeper. For Mason’s second goal, sophomore Cole Hinson threaded a ball for sophomore Sinan Kokuuslu who one-timed it into the goal. Junior Adam Witzel forced the ball into the far left corner for the final goal of the game, which ended with a score of 3-0.
The Mason boys will face Madison County High School on Friday and will seek revenge against Manassas Park next Tuesday.