The 40 or so corner kicks Paul Laurence Dunbar took in its last practice paid off early Tuesday night in a 1-0 win while hosting Lafayette in 43rd District boys’ semifinals.
Dunbar senior defender Nathan Williams strode into a ball that careened around in the 6-yard box off a Sullivan Curd corner four minutes into the game to give the Bulldogs a lead it would not relinquish.
“It went across and came back and a guy hit it right to me, and I got lucky,” Williams said of his first goal of the season.
But sometimes fortune is part of the design.
“The key to luck is being prepared when an opportunity comes,” Dunbar Coach Todd Bretz said. “It work out well.”
When Lafayette squared off against Dunbar in the regular season last month, it rained so hard the players could hardly see across the field. Then, Lafayette took a 3-0 loss Sept. 12 in a deluge.
The Bulldogs noticed a difference from the team they beat fairly easily and the Generals that came in with a six-game win streak.
“They fought harder than they did last time we played them,” Curd said. “They were way more committed.”
The victory advanced Dunbar (16-1-1) to the 43rd District finals and next week’s 11th Region tournament. The Bulldogs will face Lexington Catholic, the 3-0 winner of the second semifinal against Tates Creek. They will likely have to do so without at least two key players, Eddy Andrade and Isaac Delgado, who both suffered what appeared to be concussions during the game.
Dunbar, ranked No. 2 in the state in the latest Maher Rankings, controlled much of the first half, but No. 26 Lafayette (9-10) settled in the second half creating a mostly even battle for control of the midfield.
The Generals had a two key opportunities to get back in the game late. An illegal pass back to the Dunbar keeper set up an indirect free kick on the left edge of the 6-yard box with 11 to go in the game. But Max Nusbacher launched the tap back to him over the bar. Moments later, Dunbar cleared a corner kick out of the box that had drawn keeper Josh Szidlik to the ground.
“I was really proud of our guys the way we bounced back in the second half,” Lafayette Coach Chris Grimm said. “We battled. We had a couple of chances for us that if the ball bounces our way maybe we can put one of those in.”
LexCath tops Tates Creek
Prior to the season, Lexington Catholic Coach Jonathan Kincheloe felt a positive vibe from his team, even though it maybe wasn’t as experienced as prior years. That energy, combined with a lot of hard work earned the Knights a spot in the 43rd District finals after an impressive 3-0 victory over Tates Creek Tuesday night.
“These guys have put in the work,” Kincheloe said. “They’ve been patient. They’ve been committed to the cause, ... and they’ve taken every step that I’ve asked them to take. And we’ve put ourselves in a great position now. I’m very proud of them.”
After absorbing Tates Creek’s high pressure early, the Knights were able to get in behind the Commodore back line, beginning with Brian Banahan’s breakaway goal about 12 minutes into the game.
“It was just great work from the team,” Banahan said. “Santi Peralta came through with a header and I was just able to run onto the ball and finish it.”
Later, some solid possession play culminated with a ball dropping to Jackson Kirn just outside the left corner of the 18-yard box. His distance shot sailed into the back of the net to make it 2-0 LexCath with about 10 minutes left in the first half.
When Tyler Kenney put away a loose ball off a free kick from about 25 yards out early in the second half, the Knights (13-6-2) sealed the win and a spot in next week’s 11th Region tournament.
But first, they get to try for their first district title in since 2009, facing vaunted rival Paul Laurence Dunbar. The No. 12 Knights lost to the Bulldogs 2-1 in the regular season.
“We haven’t had a district championship in almost 10 years, and we’d like to get one.” Kincheloe said. “They are the longstanding champs, and we’d like to try to knock them off. ... We’re going to try to be a little sharper on Thursday and try to get the title.”
The loss ended No. 21 Tates Creek’s season at 11-5-1 an vast improvement over last year’s 6-12 campaign.
43rd District finals
Paul Laurence Dunbar vs. Lexington Catholic
7 p.m. Thursday at Paul Laurence Dunbar