Column: These underdogs come with a Goliath

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Fri. February 18, 2011 | John C. Cotey | Email

Column: These underdogs come with a Goliath

Connor Bass doesn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound.

He is one.

At 6-foot-6, the Durant senior is renowned for his ability to win everything in the air, revered for his advantage on corner kicks, respected for his defensive play in the box.

So what was he doing winning a game Friday afternoon with his foot?

Oh, just completing the most unlikely story of the boys soccer season.

The first time the Cougars met Gaither this season, Connor Bass was still a goalkeeper.

He gave up two goals to the Cowboys. His team lost 5-0.

The next game he gave up two in a loss to Wharton.

Bass had been the keeper for three seasons, because that was his quickest way onto the field as a freshman.

“I want to play, let me be the goalkeeper,” he told coach Jamin Hollingsworth. “I didn’t care. I just wanted to play.”

But a few games into this season, he had another request.

“Let me be a forward.”

It was a strange request. He wasn’t all that fast, his footwork wasn’t the most dazzling, and his size was perfect for, well, keeper.
Hollingsworth thought about it, and granted the request.

In his first start at forward, Bass scored twice.

Though he entered February with more saves (10) than goals, his winner on Friday was his 13th this season.
• • •
It wasn’t a brilliantly struck ball that gave the Cougars a 3-2 win over the Cowboys in the Class 5A state semifinals.

But it was low, curling, skipping toward the post, brushing past it, winner.

“It didn’t look promising, no,” said Jacob Brumbeloe.

It was perfectly placed, if not inadvertently, to the one place a keeper has no chance

“It just happened,” Bass said.

He had missed on three similar tries, shanking each one.

“I had to get one of them in eventually,” he joked.

He’s been getting them in.

Last week, to get his team to state, Bass scored in the fifth minute of the second overtime to beat two-time defending state champ Auburndale in the region championship.

The game before that, he scored the winner against Newsome.

The game before that, one goal and two assists.

The question is no longer how did Bass become a forward.

It’s what took so long?
• • •
Durant’s smallest player, Brumbeloe, scored to make it 2-1 Friday, underscoring the impact the biggest player on Durant has on games.

His goal was the prettiest of the day — he came dashing through the box and volleyed in a long free kick from Ben Eisenhauer.

He was able to do so because the Gaither keeper stayed on his line, most likely because he probably had Bass, standing a few feet in front of him looking to head the ball in, on his mind.

The free kick, though, sailed over everyone’s head into a little space between the keeper and a clump of players looking to make a play in the air.

A space that the speedy Brumbeloe filled.

Gaither coach Eric Sims, in fact, attributed Durant’s first two goals to the extra attention paid to the colossal Cougar.

“Connor is a giant out there,” Brumbeloe said. “You have to mark him with three to four guys (when he’s near the net).”

It’s a great story, Durant playing today for the state championship.

An unlikely destination for a team with seven losses who wasn’t seen as much of a threat  heading into the district playoffs.

Led by a converted 6-foot-6 goalkeeper.

Led by a giant.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@sptimes.com

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