HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Four players scored first-half goals Monday night as top-ranked Dunbar cruised to a 4-2 victory over No. 11 Bishop Brossart.
The win, in the semi-state round of the boys' State Tournament at Northern Kentucky University, puts the Bulldogs into Saturday's quarterfinals versus Highlands at Henry Clay.
"Our midfield did a really good job controlling the field today," Dunbar Coach Todd Bretz said. "We were able to win the ball early because our midfielders did a good job marking up, and that allowed us to control the tempo a little bit."
How about an unofficial shot advantage of 21-7, including 6-1 on net?
"We've been more focused over the past few games, and we try to possess more and more each game," midfielder Tyler Joy-Brandon said. "I think that's why we look a lot better, because we possess more instead of just kicking it."
By the time the Mustangs (19-5) scored, with 22:06 left, Bretz already had rested several starters. He wound up going with all reserves in the field for about the last 15 minutes.
"We got to play a lot of people tonight and that was good," he said.
Jean-Samuel Poirier opened the scoring about 11 minutes in, getting a head on the ball off of Riley Calhoon's corner kick.
About six minutes later, a Calhoon free kick set up Nathan Jones to make it 2-0.
Then it was Calhoon's turn, with a shot from about 22 yards out, assisted by Ricky Clemente with 3:46 left in the half.
Calhoon returned the favor, setting up Clemente for a killer tally — only three seconds remained in the half.
"They're a high-pressure team, very aggressive, so they step up real fast," Calhoon said. "The way to beat that team is pass around them. You can't dribble; there's no room to dribble. So we did our combinations, got a few combinations for some goals, and that was the key to the whole thing."
The Bulldogs (23-1-2) might have made things even worse, but Calhoon, Clemente, Luke Norris and Nathan Jones all put shots off a post or crossbar.
"The first half, we really struggled," Mustangs Coach Brian Goller said. "They're a talented team and they just picked us apart on this wide field in the first half.
"I think we came out a little timid early on. And you can't give a team of that quality that much space to work in."
Goller told his team at halftime to pick up the pressure and cut down the space for the Bulldogs to work.
Brossart got on the board when Nick Dierig bounced a ball through traffic off a corner kick.
Jake Jennings added a goal with 9:20 left.
"We didn't play too well at the end," Bretz said. "We let their pressure get to us. They were really coming at us hard and we didn't keep our tempo like we should have. But, for the most part, I thought we played pretty well."
Dunbar 4, bishop Brossart 2
Goals — D: Jean-Samuel Poirier, Nathan Jones, Riley Calhoon, Ricky Clemente; BB: Nick Dierig, Jake Jennings. Goalkeepers — D: Nick Clark; BB: Andrew Erickson. Records — D: 23-1-2; BB: 19-5.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: Markmaloney.bloginky.com.