Whether he likes it or not, coach John Pedro knows there are lofty expectations for his Fern Creek High School boys soccer team.
It’s the product of winning four straight Sixth Region Tournament titles.
“The target is on them, and it’s not their fault,” Pedro said of a young team that returned just one starter from last year’s squad that reached the state semifinals. “They weren’t here. They didn’t set that standard. I told them, ‘Every team is going to try to get you. You have to rise to that occasion. You have to be men and grow up real quick.’”
The Tigers showed their growth Tuesday, getting a goal from sophomore Bhawan Rai in the 30th minute and holding on to beat Pleasure Ridge Park 1-0 in a regional quarterfinal at DeSales.
Fern Creek improved to 10-3-3 and advanced to face Butler in Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. semifinal at DeSales.
“From Day One until now, we have grown astronomically,” Pedro said. “I’m not sure it’s been so technical as it’s been they understand what I’m trying to get them to do. Their understanding of the game itself has grown immensely.”
Rai’s goal came during a first half that was controlled by the Tigers, who outshot the Panthers 6-2 in the first 40 minutes.
First-year coach Phill Bohannon said his team didn’t play “the PRP way” early.
“We’re pretty well known for being hard-nosed and coming at you and coming at you and coming at you, and we just got sucked into a defensive shell,” said Bohannon, whose team beat Fern Creek 3-2 during the regular season. “Fern Creek gets a lot of credit for that, for sure, but we had some mental lapses.”
The Panthers (9-5-3) were the aggressors in the second half, outshooting the Tigers 4-3 and garnering nine corner kicks. But Fern Creek’s defense was tough enough to record its eighth shutout of the season.
“I have some tough kids on my back line, and I was just hoping they could finish the game,” Pedro said. “They ended up finishing, and we go through.”
* Butler 1, Moore 0: Freshman Hate Dieven scored in the 47th minute to lift the No. 25-ranked Bears (17-4-1) over the Mustangs (10-5-2) at DeSales.
Dieven, one of four freshmen in Butler’s starting lineup and a native of Tanzania, scored his 19th goal of the season.
“Hate is been a bit of a diamond in the rough for us,” Butler coach Mario Carrillo said. “We didn’t know anything about him until June when we got him on our roster. … That’s unusual for us. We usually know about these kids in middle school, but nobody told us anything about him coming. He’s been a breath of fresh air.”
The victory was Butler’s first in a regional tournament since 2002, when the Bears beat Evangel Christian 4-1 in a Seventh Region semifinal before falling to DeSales in the final.
Butler goalkeeper Javier Huitron rarely was tested Tuesday night but made a key save on a point-blank shot by Moore’s Mark Zamora in the 71st minute to preserve the shutout.
Thursday’s semifinal will be a rematch from Sept. 12, when the Bears beat Fern Creek 3-0.
* Fairdale 4, Bullitt East 3: Down 2-0 at halftime, the host Bulldogs (7-6-2) scored four goals in a 14-minute span of the second half to beat the Chargers (6-11-3).
Omar Mukoma scored three goals for Fairdale, including in the 58th minute for a 3-2 lead and in the 60th minute for a 4-2 edge. Jonathan Morales also scored for the Bulldogs, who will face Southern (12-2-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday in a regional semifinal at DeSales.
Noah Wooten, Chris Carter and Justin Alden scored for Bullitt East.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.