Asheville High senior Massi Tager tried to recall the last time he had played goaltender.
Right now the most important thing for the Cougars is Tager played the position well Wednesday night.
His first appearance in the net in three years was a shutout and two early goals either set up or scored by Andrew Kiley led to a 2-0 road win over Reynolds at Dalton Stadium.
“I’ve been here at Asheville High for four years and I never thought I’d play goalkeeper again,” said Tager, who is usually a defender, but stepped in for two injured teammates Wednesday.
“This is a good start to (Mountain Athletic Conference) play for us. That’s the goal, we want to win this conference. We’re a confident team and a win like this makes it even better.”
The rivalry game between two state-ranked teams – the Rockets (8-2-1, 1-1-0) are currently fifth in NCHSAA 3-A soccer, while Asheville (7-1-2, 1-0-0) is eighth – was emotional as usual.
Before the yellow cards started flying, the Cougars took hold of things with a 2-0 lead in the first six minutes.
Kiley was tripped in the box at the 35:34 mark of the first half which allowed Emory (Ga.) recruit Will Jones to bury a penalty kick. Less than a minute later, another strong run by Kiley resulted in a slow-rolling goal that came as he was falling down from about 15 yards out.
Kiley was immediately dog-piled by his teammates.
One of Reynolds’ best chances for a goal was an early free kick. It was on frame but Tager punched it away.
“It was a dream start,” Asheville coach Mike Flowe said.
“Kiley got in there right away and made things happen for us. We didn’t know what to expect with a field player in goal and other guys taking his place. And I thought we had a couple more goals, but (Rockets keeper Parker Johnson) did a fantastic job. Our conference is so stacked. This a good start for us, now we just need to replicate it.”
Reynolds coach Patrick Gladys was disappointed that his team did not match the Cougars’ energy, especially early on.
“All the credit goes to Asheville,” Gladys said.
“We were able to control the second half and we had some chances. But we had no enthusiasm in the first half and that comes down to leadership. We’re still struggling with that.”
The Rockets are the two-time defending MAC 3-A champions. Their next game is Monday at home against North Henderson, while Asheville travels to Enka that same night.
The regular season for most MAC teams runs through Oct. 28 with the NCHSAA playoffs scheduled to begin on Nov. 4.