GRAYSON Preston Freeman and Calyx Holmes readily conceded that in recent years, the ebb and flow of soccer momentum -- goals in, and goals allowed -- would've been too much for Ashland to overcome to win.
The Tomcats seemed to welcome it Monday night against defending state semifinalist East Carter.
"It was amazing because ... when we give up a goal, it's almost like, oh my God, how are we ever gonna score, get another goal back?" second-year coach Freeman said of Ashland's prior mentality. "Now we understand, we can score goals too. We have some real talent and we've got some real offense, and as long as we're solid in the back, we can score goals as well."
The Tomcats did that three times in a span of 10 minutes early in the second half to knock off the Raiders, 5-3, at Bill Ticknor Field.
Ashland snapped East Carter's string of 16 matches without a loss to a 16th Region opponent, dating back to the 2018 region final.
Holmes tallied twice and Parker Miller, Drew Clark and Ben Acuff each scored for the Tomcats (2-2), who have netted five goals in each of their two victories this season while being shut out in each of their two setbacks.
"We want our defense to be as solid as they can be, but we want to be able to attack more," Freeman said. "We're finally getting to the point where we understand that we know how to play this game too, like other people, and we can attack just like anybody else can."
Ashland attacked from the get-go. Holmes scored his first goal seven minutes in off Acuff's corner kick. Logan Cales got behind the Tomcats' goalie to equalize for East Carter (2-1) eight minutes later, but Parker Miller capitalized on a loose ball in the 20th minute to send Ashland into intermission ahead.
Cales sprinted onto Gage Erwin's assist in the 50th minute to tie it again. Holmes untied it from close range two minutes later, and Clark tacked on a minute after that by hammering a wide-angle shot inside the far post.
"In the past, getting scored on literally just took it away from us 100%. It just demoralized us," Holmes said. "It was like a shootout, and we answered. We answered hard. They answered with one; we answered with two back right at them."
East Carter's Ethan Miller, the third-leading scorer in region history, was largely bottled up by Tomcats sweepers SJ Lycans and Holmes -- when the Ashland midfield let the ball get that far -- but he broke free for his 88th career goal in the 55th minute, scorching the roof of the net to get the Raiders within one again.
But Acuff closed the scorebook six minutes later when his free kick from just outside the East Carter box caromed off a Raider and into the net.
"I've been on that kid for two years since I've been here to get tough," Freeman said of Acuff, "to win a frickin' middle of the field and own the soccer field, and tonight that kid did it, man. He won the game. He won the soccer field."
Ashland goalie Matthew Jimison protected the late lead by stopping an Ethan Miller bullet in the 68th minute and recovering in the 77th to put away a ball Jimison had batted and Miller had redirected back toward the net. Jimison also won a one-on-one in the sixth minute and slapped a Raiders shot over the crossbar in the 31st minute.
Raiders coach Quinn Huddle tipped his hat to Freeman and Ashland.
"They outplayed us for 80 minutes on our home field," Huddle said. "It is tough, and I hope tomorrow we can take a step back and some of our younger guys can learn from this. We had a lot of mistakes tonight, and that comes back on me and I take full responsibility for the mistakes. But I'm confident that we have a resilient group and we're gonna be all right."
Ashland became the first region team to score five goals against East Carter since 2015, and the Tomcats won in Grayson for the first time since 2012. The Raiders had outscored Ashland 16-1 in three wins over the last three seasons.
"It's extremely frustrating," Huddle said. "I don't know if we gave up five goals many times in the last three years, and to do it tonight, it's a gut check.
"We're a defensive team. We've been fortunate enough to win some games defensively, and we're gonna have to figure it out. There's nobody gonna feel sorry for us."
The Raiders and Tomcats are scheduled to meet again Sept. 29 in Ashland.
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