ERLANGER — "Relieved."
That was how Coach Todd Bretz felt Tuesday night after his third-ranked Dunbar Bulldogs pulled out a 2-1 victory over St. Henry.
The win, in the boys' soccer Semi-State, propelled the Bulldogs to the State quarterfinals against Marshall County or Daviess County, at Henry Clay, Saturday at 2 p.m.
Goals by Javier Delgado and Connor Roberts gave the defending state champions (18-4-3) a come-from-behind victory. Delgado scored with 50.9 seconds left in the first half, and Roberts struck on a shot that was deflected with 6:40 left in the second.
"A hard-fought game," Bretz said. "St. Henry played a very, very good game. They were very well organized. They defended very well. They put us under a lot of pressure with the counter attack, and we didn't respond real well at first.
"Then we kind of got going there a little bit at the end of the first half and got that goal. I think that gave us a little bit of momentum going into the half. Then ... we were getting some good chances, but their keeper made some good saves and their defense really scrambled hard in the back, and we kind of just got that deflection and got a lucky break."
St. Henry (13-7) didn't get a shot on goal until 14:42 remained in the first half.
Logan Dehner's shot was on target, though, giving the Crusaders a 1-0 lead. Adam Lannon assisted.
The score stayed that way until Delgado took a Ricky Clemente pass and capitalized for a 1-1 draw at intermission.
"Getting that was really motivational," Delgado said. "It got us going."
The Bulldogs dominated the scoring chances but couldn't break out.
"Overall, it was very sloppy. The field — we're not used to this grass and bumps," midfielder Tyler Joy-Brandon said. "But we kept our heads, played good defense, controlled the middle and found our open targets to lead us to goals."
Joy-Brandon barely missed making it 2-1 when his free kick, targeted for the top of the net, was punched clear by Crusaders goalkeeper Tanner Koking midway through the second half.
A few minutes later, Clemente put a hard shot on target, only to have Koking deflect the ball aside.
There was no stopping Roberts, though.
"It was a great pass from Ricky," Roberts said. "We were trying to push numbers up, trying to get in the attack ... with the time going down. I just tried to stay wide. I knew if I was out there there'd be less stress on Ricky. Ricky found me the ball and it was just a lucky shot that deflected off a defender."
For St. Henry, a Sweet Sixteen berth would have to do.
"I thought both teams played their hearts out and, these games, one goal's going to be the difference most times," Crusaders Coach Stephen Hahn said. "Dunbar's a great team and I was glad that we competed. Happy for Coach Bretz. He's a great coach. Hopefully I'll be able to follow in his footsteps and have some of the successes that he's had."
For Dunbar, the work is not yet finished.
"Only eight teams left in the state," Roberts said. "We're practicing tomorrow."
Dunbar 2, St. Henry 1
Goals — D: Javier Delgado, Connor Roberts; SH: Logan Dehner. Goalkeepers — D: Travis Shuler; SH: Tanner Koking and Tate Johnson. Records — Dunbar 18-4-3; St. Henry 13-7.