NICHOLASVILLE — The shot left Neil Sharma's foot and then floated in the air like a helium balloon that escaped a child's grasp at the circus.
The ball hung there for a few seconds, looking like it might sail wide, before it snuck into the far right corner of the East Jessamine goal.
Sharma wasn't sure it was going in, but it did and it gave No. 20 Paul Dunbar a 1-0 upset victory over the fifth-ranked and previously undefeated Jaguars on Thursday night.
It was a shot that looked like it had some extra help, Dunbar Coach Todd Bretz said.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"He had one hit the post earlier so maybe the soccer gods felt bad for him and put it in," Bretz said.
Sharma didn't care how it looked. The senior was just glad to see it go in.
"I aimed in that general direction and it curved around the keeper," he said of the goal less than three minutes into the second half. "It worked out for me."
Sharma didn't describe his emotion afterward as surprise or relief, just pure joy.
"It was happiness, just so much happiness," he said.
It made Dunbar happy, too, because the Bulldogs are now in the drivers' seat for the top seed in the always formidable 27th District Tournament.
It also helped wipe away any animosity the Bulldogs had for this field after last season when they lost in the district tournament on an own goal in overtime.
"We had some bad memories here, and we weren't going to let that happen again," defender Nick Marnatti said.
It looked like there might be another gut wrenching kind of scenario Thursday night when the Jags' Zach Brown launched a shot with 52 seconds left in the game.
It looked good to go before Bulldogs keeper Tyler Nossokoff stepped in front of it and punched it up and over the goal to preserve the Dunbar shutout, its fourth in the last five games and third in a row.
The Dogs' defense has given up a region-low seven goals so far this season.
"He had a rip," Nossokoff said of Brown's potential game-tying shot. "I saw it the whole way. When the ball came across, it was just a reaction save. I'm glad I got my hands up in time."
The Jaguars outshot Dunbar 10-7 but could never get one to fall. First-year Coach Tom Morgan thought Brown's shot was going in.
"I thought we had them, but we couldn't find the back of the net," Morgan said.
He gave credit to Dunbar's defense. Morgan is all too familiar with the Bulldogs' program. He was a four-year starter under Bretz in the early 1990s.
The former All-American is one of the leading goal scorers in the program's 20-year history, and he helped lead Dunbar to its first state title in 1992.
Morgan was an assistant coach with the girls' soccer team last season at Dunbar, and his wife Jenni is the volleyball coach there.
No loss is ever good, but this loss wasn't terrible for East, Morgan said.
"This gets the monkey off our back. Unfortunately, it was against a district team," he said.
He said the Jags are disappointed, but he thinks this might refocus them.
"If you're going to stay undefeated you have to come out and play the full 80 minutes as hard as you can," Morgan said. "You can't wake up the last 20 minutes like we did and start playing with intensity.
"We played a good game. If we play a full 80 minutes like we did the last 20, there's no telling how many goals there could have been for us."
Paul Dunbar 1, East Jessamine 0
Goal—Neil Sharma. Goalkeepers—PD: Taylor Nossokoff; EJ: Taylor Higgs.
Records—Paul Dunbar 5-2-3, East Jessamine 6-1-4.