Alex Lewis scored on a penalty kick, and an own goal proved to be the game-winner as defending state champion Paul Dunbar edged visiting Montgomery County 2-1 Tuesday in a season-opening boys' soccer match.
Dunbar Coach Todd Bretz said his Bulldogs played "like it was the first match, with a lot of inexperienced players. They played hard. We made a lot of mistakes. We did a couple of good things well, but a lot of guys still looking and learning to play with one another. ... So an early- season game against a very good team, a very athletic team that played very well."
Montgomery County led 1-0 at halftime, getting a goal by Nolan Moser with 15:52 left.
Alex Shkrabba took the ball deep into the right corner before sending a cross. Moser, near the back post, headed the ball into the net.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Dunbar had several chances to score, the best look coming with 2½ minutes left. But Indians goalkeeper Hunter Cole stoned back-to-back shots by Ricky Clemente and Bryce Faulkner.
Lewis scored the equalizer with 20:21 left, his kick coming after a hand-ball call in the penalty box.
Looking cool, calm and collected, Lewis shot into the low left corner.
"It's a lot easier when you take one in the State final the year before," he said.
Trailing that late in the match "wasn't that big of a deal," Lewis said. "We've been down before. ... We just focused on coming back, and we just wanted to make sure we focused and got the goal."
Less than two minutes later, the Bulldogs went on top via an own goal, when a ball was misplayed off of a Connor Roberts corner kick.
"Being the first game of the season and going up against the defending state champs is always something difficult," Indians Coach Nick Pannell said. "I appreciate Coach Bretz giving us the opportunity. I think we played well. I think the game plan worked pretty well — I think we had some chances on the counterattacks. That's kind of what we were looking for. Staying behind the ball defensively and then counterattacking, because we knew we had the speed to do that.
"We got our chances. Had a couple hit off the post and, unfortunately, got the PK called against us. I think that took the wind out of our sails somewhat, just playing so hard and then to have something like that, a goal like that. If it's in the run of play, you can take it a little bit easier, but to get a PK called in such a close game like that, it's pretty difficult, especially with a young team. But overall I think we played extremely well. I think we'll just build from here and continue to get better."
Montgomery County nearly tied with 1:40 left, but a shot by Shkrabba hit off the goal post.
A key to Dunbar coming back was its work in the midfield, where Justin Kelley led the patrol.
"I haven't had much experience because last year I didn't play that much," Kelley said. "A big part of controlling (the midfield) was marking. We had to control, get the other center mids to mark the other center mids, and just keep it together, not panic."
Bretz was happy to see how his team was able to battle from behind.
"You always like to have a team show resolve and even when they go down to not panic, to keep playing, to not give up on the play and have that persistence," he said. "And I thought we did a good job of that in the second half."
Dunbar 2, Montgomery County 1
Goals—MC: Nolan Moser; D: Alex Lewis, own goal. Goalkeepers—MC: Hunter Cole; D: Travis Shuler.
Records: Montgomery Co. 0-1; Dunbar 1-0.