He was a preschooler among prepubescents. Four-year-old Scotty Combs, who always seemed to hang with the older bunch, found himself alongside kids essentially twice his age on the under-8 Raiders of the Hudson Youth Soccer League.
So imagine the exuberance when Combs' teammate and next-door neighbor, Gary Gasser, lofted a corner kick to Scotty that the precocious tyke punched into the net for the first goal of his life.
"I remember after I scored my whole family ran out onto the field," he recalled.
These days, the familial euphoria is far more contained, perhaps because the goals are far more frequent.
On a Hudson High team brimming with talented role players — goalkeeper Todd Rushing contorting himself to block shots, sweeper Josh Fox starting the offense from the back, midfielders Zack Wynn and Taylor Lamphier setting the table — Combs is the diminutive dynamo who finishes.
He enters tonight's Class 4A region final against two-time defending state champ Ponte Vedra Beach Nease with 47 goals on the season.
And what a surreal season it has been. Hudson (19-5-3) is one victory shy of the state tournament.
"It's scary and exciting at the same time," Combs said. "Nerve-wracking. All in one."
Just don't expect the magnitude of the moment to affect Combs' aggressiveness; it takes far more than that. In the past year, Combs has broken an ankle, had a hip pop out of place, pulled a quad muscle and sustained assorted cleat marks to his person.
Yet he remains, pound for pound, one of the boldest and most resilient shooters still standing in the playoffs. When Combs (5-foot-7, 137 pounds) broke his right ankle last February in the first minute of the first game of the club season, he waited at least a week before consulting a doctor.
"He's one of those guys that, if nothing's broken, he's not coming out of the game," said Cobras coach Paul Vescio, who has coached Combs on one team or another the past five years.
"He's got some really nice ball-handling skills, his speed is great and he's just not afraid to shoot the ball. I want my guys to shoot; there's a green light on every guy there. When they lock him down we try to get other guys involved, but he's going to get loose at least once."
Stands to reason. Combs has eight goals in Hudson's past four matches.
"For his size," Vescio said, "he's a tough kid."