With both teams assured of advancing to regional play, Thursday night's 26th District boys' soccer finals was more about pride and seeding than survival.
Plus a little something known as home-field advantage.
Henry Clay's 2-1 sudden-death victory over visiting Tates Creek means the 13th Region tournament also will be played on the Blue Devils' field.
"That's our dream," said Phillip Mabika, who scored both Henry Clay goals. "Keep our home field undefeated and just win everything."
Tied 1-1 through regulation and two 10-minute overtimes, fourth-ranked Henry Clay won 2:11 into sudden-death OT. Moments earlier, the Devils had a goal wiped out by an offsides call.
Mabika made a run to get a one-on-one chance against Creek goalie Lee Kimbrell. Mabika fired from the 18-yard line, finding the lower left corner of the net.
"It was just crazy," said Mabika, a senior who arrived in Lexington three years ago from his native Congo. "Everybody was expecting me. All the coaches were like, 'come and stand up for us; this is business time.' ... I really wanted to win it so bad."
Henry Clay (16-3-2) will take on Anderson County in the Region 13 semifinals, Tuesday at 8 p.m. Tates Creek (10-7-4) will meet Franklin County at 6 p.m. Although the Commodores didn't get the win, they made a point.
"We wanted to prove that the first result that we had against them, which was a 1-1 game (Sept. 16), that it wasn't a fluke," Coach Bo Lankster said. "That we could step out on the field and give them another good match. They may very well be the best team in our section.
"We kind of proved to ourselves that we can play with them. That game could have gone either way. I'm really proud of our boys because they took the fight to them."
Henry Clay, backed up in its defensive zone for most of the first 25 minutes, took it to the Commodores the rest of the half. Three headers narrowly missed the net, two sailing wide and one high.
With about six minutes left in the half, Mabika played a high ricochet off Alec Foster's throw-in, heading the ball into the goal.
Tates Creek notched the equalizer in similar fashion with 24:25 left in regulation. Zack Whaley's header off a throw-in didn't get past keeper Miguel Andrade, but Ulalo Chirwa's second-chance header did.
"We've been preaching all season to stay positive," Devils Coach Tim Bernardi said. "Post-season is when you have to dig deep and have a lot of heart and character. I thought our guys rose to the occasion nicely.
"Tates Creek's a well-coached team with a lot of heart and hustle. It was a good district match."
Colts top Knights in 27th
West Jessamine 2, Lexington Catholic 1: Jonathan Rehner's goal in the 74th minute broke a 1-1 tie and gave West Jessamine (13-6-2) the district title at East Jessamine. Heath Crist scored West Jessamine's first goal, and Andrew Wagner of Catholic (13-6-1) answered in the 70th minute.
Henry Clay 2, Tates Creek 1 (OT)
Goalse_SEmDTC: Ulalo Chirwa; HC: Phillip Mabika (2). Goalkeeperse_SEmDTC: Lee Kimbrell; HC: Miguel Andrade. Recordse_SEmDTC: 10-7-4; HC: 16-3-2.
West Jessamine 2, Lexington Catholic 1
Goals—WJ: Ryan Moberley, Jonathan Rehner LC: Tony Schwab
Goalkeepers—WJ: Heath Crist LC: Andrew Wagner
Records—West Jessamine 13-6-2, Lexington Catholic 13-6-1
All Tournament Team—West: Heath Crist, Ryan Moberly, Adam Howard, Randy Troyer; LexCath: Tony Schwab, Logan Cash, Troy Schneck