Paul Laurence Dunbar rallied for two late second-half goals after a red card reduced Henry Clay to 10 men and the No. 6 Bulldogs defeated the No. 3 Blue Devils 2-1 Tuesday night in the 11th Region boys’ soccer tournament.
Pedro Jimenez poked in the go-ahead goal with two minutes left to propel Dunbar to the region semifinals. He scored the tying goal with 11 minutes left on a shot from 18 yards out that beat Henry Clay keeper Ethan Anderson just inside the far post.
“This was a really big game. They played well out there, but we kept our composure,” Jimenez said of his team, which fell behind 1-0 midway through the second half. “We tried to keep our head in the game. It was rough. I had my head down at first, but I had to step it up and be the leader out there. We all had to be leaders out there.”
Featuring two of the state’s top-10 teams, the matchup was more indicative of a state tournament than the first round of a regional.
“It is a rough draw and they deserve better,” Dunbar Coach Todd Bretz said. “They’re by far one of the best teams in the state. We’ve played some great teams from all over the Midwest and they’re one of the best teams we’ve played. That’s just the difficulty of our region. Someone’s going to get that draw.”
Dunbar controlled much of the first half, possessing the ball more and getting away more shots, but Henry Clay looked dangerous on counterattacks. Ethan MacGillivray’s shot left of the goal with two minutes till half-time was the best opportunity for either team. But moments later MacGillivray was issued a yellow card on a foul in Dunbar’s final third of the field.
“I tried to change some things in the first half and I think gave them 40 minutes,” Henry Clay Coach Jason Behler said. “In the second half, we came out and did what we normally do, and I thought we controlled much more of the game until the sending off with 20 minutes left.”
The Blue Devils’ second-half goal came on a header by Will Sweeney off a corner kick by Nafiz Budieri.
But, later, as MacGillivray battled for a ball on a breakaway to try to make it 2-0, he got called for a foul on a Dunbar defender and received his second yellow card. Two yellows equals a red and an ejection, leaving the Blue Devils with 10 men on the field for the final 18 minutes.
“I never blame officials for wins and losses,” Henry Clay Coach Jason Behler said. “We had other opportunities (where) we could have put balls in the net. For the first goal that they scored, that one was unforgivable. You can’t let a guy turn on the top of the 18 and hit a shot, especially someone as dangerous as Pedro.”
When Jimenez tied it, Behler said the Blue Devils were just “trying to hang on for dear life” as Dunbar increased the pressure on their defense.
“Going down a man changes the entire complexion of the game,” Behler said. “… That’s not what lost us the game, but it definitely did not help.”
On Thursday, Dunbar will on to take on Madison Central, who defeated Franklin County 2-0 in Tuesday’s late game.
Madison Central 2, Franklin County 0
Two huge plays by Madison Central’s Luis Martinez helped the Indians knock Franklin County out of the 11th Region tournament 2-0 Tuesday.
Martinez shook a defender and made a bold run to the end line before snapping a crossing pass that found Henry Stutz for a tap in on the far side of the goal to give the Indians a 1-0 lead with about 15 minutes left in the game.
Martinez then sealed the victory himself with a shot from the left corner of the 18-yard box that soared over the Flyers’ keeper and into the back of the net with six minutes left.
The win gives the 44th District champion, ranked No. 50 in the boys’ soccer Maher Rankings a shot at 43rd District runner-up Dunbar, ranked No. 6 in the state, in Thursday’s semifinals.