Locked in a scoreless draw for an hour, John Manga found a way to give Henry Clay the only goal Tuesday night and defeat visiting Lexington Catholic.
"I had two great chances," Manga said. "I knew I had to make one count. .. I had to get one tonight."
Manga's goal, off a throw-in from Cameron Boone, came with 19:44 left in the match. Draped by a defender, Manga turned, dribbled and fired.
"It took a heck of a shot to beat us," Knights Coach Greg Hilvers said. "He's an excellent player and everybody that plays against him better watch out for him. He had to produce that bit of brilliance, and we forced him to do something above and beyond the ordinary. Unfortunately for us, he came through tonight."
No. 8 Henry Clay (4-1), the defending state champion, won in the first meeting between the schools since Catholic scored a 2-1 sub-sectional win in 2007.
The teams had not met in a regular-season match since Henry Clay scored a 1-0 victory in 2000.
When the final whistle sounded, shoves were exchanged, with Catholic's Christian Halliwell sending the Blue Devils' Addison Manley briefly to the turf.
Halliwell drew a yellow card and both coaches kept cool.
"It's over and done with," Henry Clay's Tim Bernardi said.
Said Hilvers: "The emotions are always going to be high. ... It was just a couple of guys clashing together."
Catholic (1-2) had more scoring chances in the first half, but Henry Clay had the best look, 16½ minutes in, when Manley broke in alone. Knights keeper Danny Veech charged out to block Manley's point-blank shot, and a Catholic defender cleared the rebound.
The Knights' back wall of Jackson Rowady, Henry Stephens, Alec Schindler and Mark Patton kept close tabs on Manga. But the senior forward, who has orally committed to Cincinnati, began to find room in the second half.
"That's what it takes — you're just going to have to feed (Manga) the ball and hope for the best," Bernardi said. "He's definitely a dynamic player. They did a good job of containing him."
With 27 minutes left, Rowady got just enough of a Manga shot to deflect it wide of the goal by a foot or two.
A few minutes later, Veech punched a Manga shot up and over the crossbar.
"It seemed like we were getting a little unlucky on some chances we had," Bernardi said, "and the keeper made some nice saves and put a couple off the post."
Manga's goal came from the left wing, at the 18-yard line. He fired a low screamer just inside the near post.
"They didn't give me that much space to work with," Manga said. "So in the second half I figured how to get my own space, and I got the goal in."
Meanwhile, John Paul Jikang made eight saves to notch his and Henry Clay's first shutout of the season.
Veech finished with six saves.
Despite the loss, Hilvers saw good play from his team.
"I thought the performance we put in was actually pretty good," he said. "Henry Clay's a top-level side, being the defending state champions. We're happy — for the most part — with the performance. We had some inconsistencies, but it's early yet."
Unofficially, Catholic outshot Henry Clay 15-12, with a 7-5 advantage in corner kicks.
Henry Clay 1, Lexington Catholic 0
Goal — John Manga. Goalkeepers — LC: Danny Veech; HC: John Paul Jikang. Records — Lexington Catholic 1-2; Henry Clay 4-1.