Lemus, Mountainside boys soccer end season with heads held high
The star keeper, the one who helped prevent sixth-ranked Grant from running wild, was subbed out with 10 minutes left in Mountainside's season and exited stage left.
Maverick senior Anthony Lemus, instead of running over directly to the sideline, hopped over the end line to save time and slowly made his way to the Mountainside bench. The exchange for his backup keeper wasn't meant as a slight from Lemus' coaches by any means, as unceremonious as the pulling felt at first. But with Grant comfortably ahead 2-0 in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs and the clock running fast, Mountainside took out its standout goalie for the final time. Lemus sat himself down in the middle of his Maverick teammates on the aluminum bench, a bystander as the season came to an end as Mountainside lost to Grant 2-0 at the Grant Bowl on Nov. 2.
"It's crazy, it's been a great run," Lemus said. "We had a lot of good games, a lot of bad games. But we came here, we played hard. We made some huge improvements from last season."
For the first time in school history, Mountainside made the playoffs. The Mavericks gave Grant a great challenge, too. One fluke goal aside, Mountainside allowed the Generals just one score. Junior Gabe Richard made a great second run, driving around multiple defenders. Sophomore Ryan Mehlschau barely missed a free kick. Junior Gabe Richard had second-half shot on goal. As the Mavericks become more comfortable in the tenuous postseason setting, they began to play better collectively, with enhanced force. Head coach Tom Lathrop won Metro League Coach of the Year. Richard was honorable mention All-Metro. Seniors Trevor Hunt (defense) and Peter Anderson (midfield) were second-team All-Metro. Lemus was named first-team All-Metro goalie, a sign of enormous respect from his opponents considering the Mavs won just one league match.
Even the greatest of goalies and strongest of defenses aren't immune to the perils of the postseason. Grant pressured the goal with a run in the final third of the field on one instance in the first half, but it wasn't the kind of attack that warranted a goal. But the ball took a funny bounce and landed in between Lemus and two Maverick defenders. All three players looked at each other, the defenders thinking Lemus was going to grab the ball, Lemus believing his defenders were going to clear the ball. Neither occurred and the ball spun into the goal to give Grant a 1-0 lead.
"For one second, I hesitated," Lemus said. "I was going to go out, but then I saw my defense right next to the ball, so I let them have it. The ball went right by me and it was too late."
Lemus is a star in every sense. He commands the box and owns it. Forwards that dare attack the deep end of the pitch are charged at by the Maverick keep. He barks out signals to his defense, scoops up grounders like a shortstop, clears dangerous chances with highly contested clears in traffic and skies for balls in the air like a power forward. Lemus exudes a confidence that seeps to the rest of his team.
Mountainside's future is beaming with Lathrop at the helm and a pipeline of young players on the way. And while Lemus won't be around when the playoff runs come and the Metro titles are contended for, he no doubt had a huge hand in helping build the program's foundation. Lemus, who started his high school career at Aloha and played on the club circuit, guided the young Mavericks and showed them the ropes as one of the few seniors on the squad.
"There were a bunch of individuals who came from different backgrounds, but it was a good challenge," Lemus said. "Today just was another lesson for them on how to get better. It was a tough game against a very good opponent. This was something new for them that'll they'll take into next year. They'll definitely go onto the next round next season."
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