Push came to shove Wednesday night as No. 1 knocked off defending champ.
No. 1 being St. Xavier, which shut out Henry Clay 2-0 in the semifinals of the KHSAA State Soccer Championships at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.
The Tigers will face Ryle, a 3-0 winner over Henderson County, in the title match.
Girls' Final Four action is Thursday at 6 and 8 p.m.
Finals for both divisions are set for Saturday, with boys at 5 p.m. and girls at 7.
St. X will be trying to increase its record for state titles to 11. The Tigers most recently won in 2009, capping a string of three in a row.
No. 1 St. Xavier 2, No. 3 Henry Clay 0: Mitchell Metzger and Adam Kirsch scored, while Nathan James got the shutout in goal.
"We knew they were a great team and they obviously showed it," said Tim Bernardi, coach of the Blue Devils. "They're a possession-style team. They just really worked the ball around nicely.
"I felt like there was no quit in us, and I'm pleased with that. We seemed to keep plugging along and we had some opportunities — one great opportunity in the second half. And we just fell short."
The Tigers (26-1-1), winning their 25th consecutive match, led 1-0 at halftime.
Metzger banged home a rebound 14:36 in after Devils keeper Jean Paul Jikang stopped an initial attempt by Neil Henley.
Henry Clay's only shot on net in the first half was a direct kick by 40-goal scorer John Manga. That was denied with a diving save by Nathan James with under 17 minutes left.
Kirsch scored with 33:11 left. Manning, at the near post, redirected Gabe Stewart's corner kick to the far post. A Blue Devil defender was at the post but had no time to react, and the ball glanced off his hand and into the net.
Manga finally got his first good chance in transition with 22½ minutes left. James was there to make the save, though, on a shot taken from near the 18.
Manga, battling a cold and sinus infection, was otherwise kept under wraps.
"We didn't set anything up special," Coach Andy Schulten said of St. X's defense against Manga. "I just told our defenders that we're going to play our regular game, and we 'man' mark with our outside backs, and they passed him off wonderfully.
"Marcus Senninger, I thought, did an outstanding job on him. They just made it difficult. He's a heck of a player."
Henry Clay (22-3-1) had won 15 consecutive matches coming in and was unbeaten in 17 (16-0-1).
"I'm proud of our kids and what they accomplished this year," Bernardi said.
Representing the Devils on the all-tourney team: Thomas Ueland and 2010 tourney MVP, Addison Manley.
No. 9 Ryle 3, No. 12 Henderson Co. 0: Cole Willoughby scored a goal and assisted on the other two.
The Raiders (23-2-3) scored twice in the first half.
Chris Froschauer got the shutout in goal.
"We've talked to our kids about scoring early and we've built this team with defense," Coach Stephen Collins said. "And we felt if we could get two goals that this game was ours. As it turned out, we were able to get three, and our defense held strong most of the game."
Tyrus Sciarra opened the scoring at 12:03.
At 18:33, Willoughby cleaned up a loose ball for a 2-0 lead.
Willoughby's pass set up Mitchell See for the clincher, 5:08 into the second half.
Henderson (22-4-1) had won 13 matches in a row.
Based on rankings, Ryle will be the underdog Saturday, a rare occurrence this season.
"So it's kind of nice not having that 'X' on our back," Collins said. "These guys have played real loose for the last three to four weeks and we're really jelling as a team, we're really playing great defense. And, hey, we'll just play hard and go out and see what happens."
Ryle's only other trip to the finals came in 2006, finishing runner-up to Bowling Green.
St. Xavier 2, Henry Clay 0
Goals (assists) — Mitchell Metzger, Adam Kirsch (Gabe Stewart).
Goalkeepers — HC: Jean Paul Jikang; X: Nathana James.
Records — Henry Clay 22-3-1; St. Xavier 26-1-1.
Ryle 3, Henderson Co. 0
Goals (assists) — Tyler Sciarra (Cole Willoughby), Willoughby, Mitchell See (Willoughby).
Goalkeepers — R: Chris Froschauer; HC: Logan Spencer.
Records — Ryle 23-2-3; Henderson Co. 22-4-1.