BUTLER - Mason County knew it would be a tall task to knock off the two-time defending 38th District champions Harrison County Wednesday in the district title game.
When the Lady Royals leading scorer Danielle Heflin went down in the first two minutes of the game, the task became gigantic.
The Lady Royals were unable to get much going offensively, the Fillies surged early with a goal, added a goal in the second half on a long shot and came away with their third straight district title, 2-0, at Sharp Middle School in Butler.
Heflin, who came in with 36 of the Lady Royals 66 goals on the year, turned her ankle early. She limped off the field shortly after, tried to walk it off and ended up re-entering without being able to put much weight on the injured ankle, before exiting again in tears unable to move around much on the pitch.
"I think we started off really well even with Danielle coming off the field, but somewhere in there we just tried to force it a little too much and got down on each other," Lady Royals coach Amy Cottam said. "When that happens it's like a house of cards."
Meanwhile, the Fillies were in attack mode early on, putting up a flurry of shots in the game's first 15 minutes. However, only one of them was able to cross the goal line and just barely when Kelby Gaunce took a corner kick off a few deflections and got the ball just past a diving Nadia McGranahan, who snagged the ball, but it was already cleared from the goal line and into the goal.
The pressure continued from there for the Fillies, but McGranahan and the Lady Royals back line primarily consisting of Kara Moran, Hadley Faris and Haley May were able to clear away the danger.
"We've got a really solid line back there. They work really well together, they trust each other and they held their own. But when you get a barrage of shots like that, eventually something is gonna go," Cottam said.
The Lady Royals started to build a little momentum the final 20 minutes of the first half, but a shot on goal and a corner kick were easily cleared away by the Fillies, keeping the score at 1-0 heading into halftime.
"Staying focused was the key there. That was our main goal there and keeping our head in the game," Cottam said.
Laurel McDaniel added insurance at the 47-minute mark in the second half when she struck a ball from outside the box and right under the crossbar for a goal, making it 2-0 Harrison.
The opportunities remained limited from there for the Lady Royals, who were only able to muster up three shots in the entire contest to Harrison's 13.
The loss dropped Mason to 10-8 on the year as they'll await their first round regional opponent Friday morning during the 10th Region draw.
"We need to get healthy first and keep our focus. We need to realize we're not out of this yet and just take it one day at a time, go into regional with fresh minds and let's go back to work," Cottam said.
Harrison improved to 9-4-3 on the season.