After more than 55 minutes of scoreless high school soccer, Tates Creek finally broke through Tuesday night.
Too bad for the Creekers that the goal turned out to be a wakeup call for the slumbering giant on the opposing side, Paul Laurence Dunbar.
The Bulldogs, ranked fourth in the state, rallied for a 3-1 win over visiting and fifth-ranked Tates Creek.
"Up to that point, they were completely dominating the game both offensively and defensively, and they controlled the tempo," Dunbar Coach Todd Bretz said. "I don't know if they relaxed for just that moment after working so hard to get the goal. ... After that, we settled down a little bit."
Cubaka Mutayongwa gave Creek the lead, banging a shot from the 18 off the crossbar and down into the goal, with 24:26 left to play.
Dunbar (10-0-1) took only 51 seconds to tie the game.
Ricky Clemente did the honors, converting a free-kick service off the foot of Riley Calhoon.
"It was there in the air, so I just put it in basically," Clemente said. "It was right on my head."
"I think we did," Clemente said when asked if Dunbar woke up after Tates Creek scored. "We were just sort of playing their game and, after that, we kind of woke up and just took over."
Just 1:50 later, Nelson Ng scored from the edge of the goal box to put the Bulldogs ahead.
Nathan Jones added a clinching goal with 10:47 left, with Calhoon again drawing the assist.
"I've been working on that shot a lot in practice, actually," said Jones, who shot from near the penalty mark. "(Calhoon) chipped it and then I just kind of bent it around the goalie."
An evenly played first half netted no goals.
Tates Creek put a shot off the crossbar but couldn't put the rebound in the net.
Dunbar's best look was Clemente's shot from about 12 yards out, denied by diving goalkeeper Blake Parker.
The physical nature of the first half was reflected by two yellow cards for each team. Creek (6-2) picked up another card in the second half.
When Creek took the lead, "I was a little bit scared," Jones said. "I didn't think we were playing our best. But once we got that wakeup call, I think we really stepped up and started to play our best."
The outcome left Commodores Coach Brandon Turek wondering what might have been.
"I think the kids relaxed and lost composure," he said. "An unchallenged service into the box for an easy header, and then the momentum went their way, and that kind of wrote the story there. Just a lack of composure and a lack in experience.
"I think knowing we went 1-0 up on ... the defending runner-up in the state, it got to them a little bit. And Dunbar's a great team. They're well-coached, they're well-organized and, like sharks, they smelled blood in the water and they went after it."
Bretz was just happy to get a win.
"It's big in the district," he said. "Our district's always so difficult and you want to put yourself in the best situation. Tates Creek's a great team."
Dunbar 3, Tates Creek 1
Goals—TC: Cubaka Mutayongwa; PLD: Ricky Clemente, Nelson Ng, Nathan Jones.
Goalkeepers—TC: Blake Parker; PLD: Nick Clark.
Records: Tates Creek 6-2; Paul Dunbar 10-0-1.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.