Henry Clay's boys' soccer team proved Monday night that it can score a big victory even when its big scorer doesn't find the net.
The defending state champions, playing on their home field, beat Danville 4-1 in the sub-sectional playoffs even though Blue Devils star John Manga, a goal machine all season, misfired all night.
Manga's teammates picked up the slack, however, and No. 3 Henry Clay picked up its 13th win in a row.
The Devils (21-2-1) will play host to Paul Laurence Dunbar (15-9-1) Wednesday night for a spot in the state final four.
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With Manga having a frustrating night, Henry Clay had to find its offense elsewhere.
Thomas Ueland, a freshman, had two goals. Juniors Zach Campbell and Connor Lakofka had one each.
Ueland, whose brother Walker was a senior standout on last year's title team, said it was "important to know we can win without John scoring. But he was still great. With a player like that, he's never invisible."
Henry Clay Coach Tim Bernardi had the same take on the victory.
"It's nice to win when we're not necessarily clicking on all cylinders," he said. "I thought John played well. He just wasn't finishing. But other people stepped up and made big plays for us."
Ueland gave the Devils a 1-0 lead when he headed in a corner kick by Lakofka midway through the first half.
"Thomas was right where he needed to be and finished it," Lakofka said.
The Devils made it 2-0 when Campbell was in the right place — in front of the right post — after a shot by Manga deflected off Danville keeper Matt Oster.
Campbell got the gimme goal with 7:38 left in the half.
If Henry Clay was feeling comfortable at that point, it didn't last long. Only 47 seconds later, Danville's Drafton Peck, whose penalty kick won the 15th Region finals over Mercer County, ripped a 25-yard screamer that Devils keeper John Paul Jikang couldn't quite reach.
"We were in kind of a lull there," Bernardi said. "We felt we lost the last 10 minutes of the first half. But we came out in the second half and went right back to our style of play — possession and moving the ball."
Henry Clay got a goal three minutes into the second half from Lakofka, who scored off a free kick by Ueland.
Ueland then all but sealed it with his second goal that came after teammate Joel Sola's shot attempt pinballed into his wheelhouse.
Manga, who has 40 goals this year, had several chances, including a point-blank penalty kick and a couple of breakaways. But he came up empty each time. He sat out the last 25 minutes after colliding with the Danville keeper and drawing a yellow card.
"John was a little off tonight," Lakofka said. "But we found other ways to score and made sure we capitalized when we got the chance."
Most important, Henry Clay still has a chance to defend its state title.
"We knew since the beginning of the season we had the potential," Lakofka said. "It's a great feeling to get back this far."
Henry Clay 4, Danville 1
Goals — HC: Thomas Ueland (2), Zach Campbell, Connor Lakofka. D: Drafton Peck.
Goalkeepers — HC: John Paul Jikang. D: Matt Oster.
Records — Henry Clay 21-2-1; Danville 11-9-1.