NICHOLASVILLE — Top seeds Lafayette and Paul Laurence Dunbar did what they needed to do Wednesday night, advancing to the finals of the boys' 27th District soccer tournament at West Jessamine Middle School.
Lafayette put away Lexington Catholic 4-1, and 15th-ranked Dunbar topped East Jessamine 3-1. Both winners will go through to regional play.
Finals are set for Saturday. Lafayette edged Dunbar on penalty kicks on Sept. 13, after going 0-0 in regulation.
Dunbar 3, East Jessamine 1: "We were fortunate, we had a few more chances," said Todd Bretz, coach of the Bulldogs (11-9-1). "A lot of the chances we had weren't necessarily the best of quality, but we tried to create a few opportunities up front."
Unofficially, Dunbar outshot the Jaguars 25-9, and Bulldogs keeper Jon Hurley needed to make only two saves after giving up an early goal to Sam Miller.
"It was hard, getting Sam just pounding on us," said Matthew Spanyer, who led the defense in support of Hurley. "But we stuck tight and we did what our coach told us to do, so it all worked out."
The Jaguars (6-13-1) took the early lead. Miller slipped in a goal from low on the right wing 18:22 into the match.
Dunbar tied less than four minutes later on a tic-tac-toe play. Kerek Plummer sent the ball from near midfield, along the sideline, to Jean-Samuel Poirer in the penalty box. Poirer flicked a header to the back side, where Nathan Jones buried the shot.
The Bulldogs got the go-ahead goal with 8:35 left in the half. Ceasar Delgado, 18 yards off the goal line but barely a step inside the sideline to his right, boomed a shot just inside the back post.
"We got lucky on the second goal," Bretz said. "(Delgado) went to cross it and it went in. A little luck against a good team like East Jessamine is helpful."
Guillermo Clemente added a second-half goal with 7:18 left.
Lafayette 4, Lexington Catholic 1: Adam Allen scored a pair of goals to propel the Generals (11-6-3).
"I thought we were a little tentative to start the game," Lafayette Coach Chris Grimm said. "I think that's maybe understandable — a lot of guys, they were playing their first post-season. ... We play very well when we play aggressive, and we weren't playing aggressive to begin with.
"The second half, I thought, was much better. But Catholic had their opportunities. I give them credit. We were able to finish more opportunities than they were. I was happy with the way we were kind of able to finish the game off, take advantage of some nice, clear-cut opportunities."
Allen had the only goal of the first half. His blast of about 16 yards on the left side found space at the far post.
Woody Higginbotham tallied 10½ minutes into the second half for a 2-0 lead.
Barely half a minute later, Catholic took advantage of a hand-ball call in the penalty box. Jackson Rowady connected on the penalty shot.
Allen scored exactly two minutes later, restoring the two-goal advantage.
"Our forward pressured the ball and their defender poked it out," Allen said. "Then I hit it and it deflected off his foot and went in."
Besar Gjoshi iced things, volleying a goal off Daghain Wood's corner kick with 9:04 left.
"Both teams fought real hard and it just seemed like the ball rolled their way a little bit more," said Greg Hilvers, whose Knights finished 6-13-0. "They put away their chances and they stopped ours. I can't take anything away from Lafayette."
Lafayette 4, Lexington Catholic 1
Goals — LC: Jackson Rowady; La: Adam Allen 2, Woody Higginbotham, Besar Gjoshi. Goalkeepers — LC: Danny Veech; La: Curtis Daniel. Records — Catholic 6-13-0; Lafayette 11-6-3.
Paul L. Dunbar 3, East Jessamine 1
Goals — EJ: Sam Miller; PLD: Nathan Jones, Ceasar Delgado, Guillermo Clemente. Goalkeepers — EJ: Dale Davore; PLD: Jon Hurley. Records — East Jessamine 6-13-1; Paul Dunbar 11-9-1.