Playing the toughest first-round opponent it could have drawn, Henry Clay looked every bit the favorite to come out of Region 11 with a 4-0 win over Lexington Catholic on Monday at Capitol View Park in Frankfort.
The Blue Devils, ranked third in the latest Maher Rankings behind Bowling Green and Trinity, turned a one-goal lead at half into a runaway win over the No. 26 Knights.
Aime Mabika gave the Blue Devils the halftime advantage with a goal off a corner kick that he touched in with five minutes to go in the first half.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"It was a gift," Mabika said. "I was just kind of fortunate to be in the right spot at the right time."
Mabika, a University of Kentucky commit who's about 6-foot-5, made his third penalty kick of the season — he's 3-for-3 this season — to give Henry Clay a 2-0 lead in the second half.
Mabika nearly had a hat trick — an early header off a corner bounced off the left post.
"That killed me," he said with a laugh.
Nick Whitehouse added two goals in a span of three minutes to finish things off for the Blue Devils, who will meet Madison Central in Thursday's semifinals.
Seniors Zach Whitehouse and Logan Cox returned from injuries for the Blue Devils. That's part of the reason Henry Clay was "clicking on all cylinders," Coach Tim Bernardi said.
Indians advance too
A morsel of controversy might have been what Madison Central needed to spark a second-half stretch of goals that gave it a 3-0 win over Franklin County in the first round of the 11th Region tournament on Monday at Capitol View Park in Frankfort.
In the 54th minute, Bonface Kipchumba collided with Franklin County keeper Mason Parritt as Parritt made a save. Parritt maintained the save but was down for several minutes. He exited the game with a concussion.
Kipchumba was issued a yellow card, with which the Madison sideline didn't agree. Indians assistant coach Stephen Rech was especially displeased; he was issued a red card and removed from the sideline.
Central turned up its aggression and found net first on a Dylan Hornsby penalty kick past backup keeper Matthew Melton in the 63rd minute.
Nine minutes later Hunter Jackson gave the Indians (18-3-1) a two-goal edge after taking the ball from right midfield, crossing to the left and digging deep into the box for a pretty finish with his left foot.
Worthie McGuire iced things for Madison Central with another deep left goal in the final moments.
The Indians scored three times but survived an upset bid in large part due to a defense that allowed no Flyers shots in the second half.
"We're very strong in the midfield," said Madison Central Coach Evan Sutherland, whose team has won 12 of its last 13 games. "We've played a lot of good teams and we're as good as anybody we feel like in midfield."
Sutherland lauded Kipchumba's effort in spite of the penalty he was assessed. That level of aggressive playmaking reveals why he's the Indians' leading goal scorer with 22.
Madison Central held the Flyers to just two shots in the first half, both of which could have resulted in fairly easy goals. Franklin had a kick stray by the right goal post from the left side in the second minute. On the second, Indians keeper Justin Elkins met a free-kick ball with his body, enough blockage to prevent a scrum of Flyers from getting a point deep in the box.
Franklin County had won six straight before falling to No. 14 Woodford County in the 41st District championship.
MADISON CENTRALl 3, FRANKLIN CO. 0
11th Region first round at Frankfort
G—MC: Hornsby (63', PK), Jackson (72'), McGuire (79').
GK—MC: Elkins. FC: Parritt, Melton (54').
Records: Madison Central 18-3-1, Franklin County 14-7-2.
HENRY CLAY 4, LEXINGTON CATHOLIC 0
11th Region first round at Frankfort
G—HC: Mabika 2 (35', 48' PK), N. Whitehouse (65', 68').
GK—HC: Gregory. LC: Roberts, Wheeler (70').
Records: Henry Clay 18-2-1, Lexington Catholic 10-11-2.