Some habits are just hard to kick.
For three years starting in 2004, the boys' soccer teams at Paul Dunbar and Lexington Catholic made it a practice of meeting up in their district and region championship games.
Lately, Dunbar hadn't held up its end of the deal, but the No. 20 Bulldogs found their way back, knocking off No. 19 Madison Central 1-0 in the 14th Region semifinals Tuesday night at Catholic.
It sets up a Thursday night rendezvous with their old nemesis for a chance to move on.
"I'm glad," Dunbar Coach Todd Bretz said, flashing a rare smile. "It's been a while since we were able to do this with them. ... It's been a couple of years, but it's nice to be back in this position."
The Bulldogs got there thanks to an Alex Gomez goal nine minutes into the second half.
"The ball was just there, and I volleyed it off my left foot," Gomez said. "I wasn't even looking to see where the goalie was, I just wanted to get a shot on goal and see what we could get."
But Gomez's more important assignment might have been helping Cameron Hardin defend the Indians' Ryan Horn. The speedy senior came into the post-season with 17 goals for the Indians, who hadn't lost since their first game of the season.
"We wanted to deny him the ball as much as possible," Bretz said of Horn. "Once he gets the ball, he's dangerous."
Hardin confirmed it was a tough assignment.
"I just did my best to stay around him," he said. "It was tough, and he put a lot of pressure on us."
Dunbar's defense has given up a region-low 12 goals this season.
"Dunbar's a little bit quicker and faster than what we're used to playing," Central Coach Jeremiah Duerson said. "They took us out of what we do best."
But the Bulldogs can't take away what his Indians were able to do all season, Duerson said.
"The hard work and effort they've put in day in and day out, it goes unnoticed most years, but this year, 13-2 is nothing to hang their head about," Duerson said.
Dunbar's players were happy to have this one behind them and get a third shot at Catholic this season.
"We're excited," defender Nick Marnatti said. "This may not have been our prettiest game, but we got that one goal we needed, and we're moving on."
No. 22 Lexington Catholic 4, Model 1: For about 60 minutes, the Knights looked uninspired.
They can thank Josh Arnwine for being their muse. He scored the game-tying goal with 23 minutes left and forced Catholic to respond, which it did, with three goals in the final 19 minutes.
"I never want to see us get scored on — I'd prefer we not need a wake-up call — but it seemed to be what galvanized us and got our heads in the game," Catholic Coach Greg Hilvers said.
Chandler Ware handled a beautiful pass from Brandon Johnson and tapped it in to give the Knights the lead for good. Grant Hinkebein, who slammed in a rebound off an initial shot by Michael Murray, made Catholic a little more comfortable with 7:08 to go in the game.
In the final minutes, Matt Collard added a penalty kick to round out the scoring. Hunter Hamilton had Catholic's first goal of the game.
The Knights, who had 17 shots on goal to four for Model, won their fourth straight and have won seven of their last eight.
Lexington Catholic 4, Model 1
Goals—M: Josh Arnwine; LC: Hunter Hamilton, Chandler Ware, Grant Hinkebein, Matt Collard.
Goalkeepers—M: Blake Neumann; LC: B.J. Hall.
Records—Model 14-6, Lexington Catholic 12-6-2.
Paul Dunbar 1, Madison Central 0
Goalkeepers—PLD: Taylor Nossokoff; MC: A.J. Dunaway.
Records—Paul Dunbar 9-4-4, Madison Central 13-2 .