FARMINGTON HILLS – Leutrim Shefkiu’s nose was bloodied from a hard fall in the box that was the result of trying to make something happen for his team.
His face was also numb.
None of that mattered and could not take away from his excitement Wednesday night.
Shefkiu scored the decisive goal that helped the Mason boys soccer team get a shot to play for a Division 2 state championship.
The senior midfielder and captain converted a penalty kick with just over two minutes left to play to send the No. 8-ranked Bulldogs to a 1-0 victory over No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in a state semifinal at Farmington Hills Harrison High School.
“It’s everything,” Shefkiu said of having an opportunity to play for a state title. “Right after we lost in the state semifinals last year we were in the weight room. Summer workouts – we worked so hard every single day.
“It’s awesome. We get to play one more game and we have a chance to win the state championship and bring it back to Mason (for the first time) since 1997. It’s amazing. It’s a great feeling.”
Mason (23-3) continued its streak of shutouts and has yet to allow a goal in the state tournament. And that streak has the Bulldogs in the state championship game for the first time since they won the state title in 1997. Mason will face Forest Hills Northern at 3 p.m. Saturday at Comstock Park.
“It’s so cool for these guys,” Mason coach Nick Binder said. “I was a junior on that team and got to experience that. For the last nine years I’ve wanted that so bad for my players to be able to experience it. This group has worked so hard for that. We’re definitely going to have to manage emotions and things like that and celebrate this win as minimally as we can with how great of a win it was. It’s very cool to be advancing and we did it against a great team. You saw both teams’ best games and we got the bounce and the call at the end.”
Shefkiu’s goal was set up by Mario Abreu’s aggressive play. Abreu worked hard to battle for possession in the box. He fell to the ground after being hit in the box. That led to the whistle and an official awarding the Bulldogs a penalty kick.
Shefkiu, who had a hard fall in the box six minutes earlier that resulted in play being stopped and him leaving the game, was Mason’s choice to take the kick. He had created scoring chances since returning to the game after suffering the bloody nose.
“He had all the momentum after almost breaking his nose (on that fall),” Mason senior Holden Dippel said. “He was feeling it and somebody who is feeling it is always going to score.”
And that’s exactly what Shefkiu did by drilling a kick to the lower left corner to beat Cranbrook goalie Trevor Stormes.
“To draw the PK was the most important part and to be in the right spot,” Shefkiu said. “Mario was working his butt off and he just got hit. It was all a team effort though.”
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