FOWLERVILLE – Mason started slowly in its Division 2 district opener on Tuesday against Fowlerville, but the Bulldogs quickly showed the form that has helped them with 18 games against just three losses.
Senior Leutrim Shefkiu scored twice in a matter of minutes in the first half and seniors Holden Dippel and John Kingman added second-half goals in a 4-0 victory.
“I thought we were a little rusty. We hadn’t played since last Tuesday and that was a consolation game that was a little bit of a slower game,” Mason coach Nick Binder said. “It took us a while to shake some of the rust off. (Shefkiu’s) first goal picked us up and gave us some energy.”
The score came on a hard strike to the top corner of the net with 9:50 left in the first half. A few minutes later, Shefkiu scored on an unassisted goal.
“I saw I had a little space on the first one and I just wanted to hit it and get in on target and see what we could get because we hadn’t had many,” Shefkiu said. “The second one I just saw a player or two fell and I saw the middle of the field wide open and I put it in the corner and finished it. …
“We started connecting ball to feet and started picking up the pace and it turned out better.”
Dippel’s goal came on a header and Kingman’s came late on a penalty kick after a foul in the box. Mason controlled possession in the second half and limited the Gladiators’ opportunities.
Fowlerville (8-9-2) had a chance to cut the lead in half in the first half after Shefkiu’s scores, but a pair of shots found post and crossbar.
“They outplayed us in the first half and they outshot us but the one that hit the post, the one that hit the crossbar, if one of those goes in it’s 2-1 and we would have been going into the second half with some confidence,” Fowlerville coach Doug Jarvis said. “Those two early goals hurt for sure.”
Mason reached the semifinals in Division 2 last year before falling 3-2 in overtime to eventual state champion East Lansing.
The Bulldogs have 12 seniors listed on their roster and the experience is a strength as the team tries to match or better last year’s run.
“Three of those guys were on varsity as freshmen and starters at that so there are a few guys that have heard my voice for long enough that they know what I’m going to say probably before I say it,” Binder said.
“Experience and leadership – it helps us be composed,” Shefkiu said. “We want to get back and see what we can do. We want to get as far as we can. We have the ability to.”
Mason will play South Lyon East at Chelsea High School on Thursday in the district semifinals. The winner of that match will move on to Saturday’s final.