Paul Laurence Dunbar lived up to its No. 1 ranking by beating Henry Clay 4-0 in the 11th Region boys' soccer finals Saturday night.
In steamrolling to soccer's Sweet 16, the Bulldogs (22-1-2) outscored their three region opponents by a combined score of 13-3. But Coach Todd Bretz downplayed the notion of Dunbar being intent on making amends for last year's loss in the state championship game.
"Everything's different," he said. "Our goal each year is to get as far as we can."
Henry Clay Coach Tim Bernardi sounded convinced that Dunbar can go all the way this year. "Physical, strong, well coached," he said of the Bulldogs. "They have all the pieces to win it all."
Dunbar needed less than three minutes to take the lead. Senior Jean Poirier scored on a header off a corner kick to put the Bulldogs ahead 1-0 with 37:30 left in the first half.
About 15 minutes later, sophomore Ricky Clemente made it 2-0. He added to his school record for goals in a season by scoring on a rebound.
Bretz said he had no idea how many goals Clemente had scored this season. "It's not an individual game," he said. "It's a team game."
When told the Dunbar parents were saying Clemente had scored 25 or 26 goals this season, Bretz quipped, "Parents always will keep stats. But how accurate are they?"
There was no such vagueness about how large a quick two-goal lead impacted the game.
"Very big because Henry Clay is very dangerous," Bretz said. "We could get them on their heels, so they weren't on the attack."
Henry Clay (14-6-3) seemed to be playing uphill the entire first half. Most of the action came on Dunbar's offensive end. Dunbar's goalie hardly touched the ball and spent most of the first 40 minutes loitering far from the action.
Senior Nathan Jones added a third first-half goal for Dunbar with about 10 minutes left. The Bulldogs dominated play in the first half and could have been even further ahead. But Henry Clay goalie Itai Kumengissa made two diving saves to keep the margin at three goals.
The teams played to a 1-1 tie on Oct. 1. Bernardi noted that Dunbar played without several regulars in that regular-season meeting. "We knew it'd be a different game," he said.
Riley Calhoon made it 4-0 with a goal midway through the second half.
The second half appeared more competitive. Twice Dunbar goalie Nick Clark made saves to blunt Henry Clay scoring chances.
But Bernardi suggested that appearances could be deceiving.
"Hard to say what we did or what they allowed us to do," he said.
Paul Laurence Dunbar 4, Henry Clay 0
Goals—PLD: Jean Poirier, Ricky Clemente, Nathan Jones, Riley Calhoon.
Goalkeepers—PD: Nick Clark and Josiah Farley. HC: Itai Kumengissa.
Records—Paul Dunbar 22-1-2; Henry Clay 14-6-3.
All-11th Region—Luke Norris (MVP), Ricky Clemente, Jean Poirier and Riley Calhoon of Dunbar; Thomas Ueland, Chris Hunt and Collin Rose of Henry Clay; Andrew Carter of Tates Creek; Tanner Kidwell of Madison Central; Cameron Cool of Scott County; Michael Hatfield of Western Hills; Clay Little and Ian Williams of Woodford County; and Andrew Yoder and Levi Agee of Model.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.