Two years ago – with seven sophomores in the starting lineup – the South Oldham High School boys’ soccer team lost 3-0 to St. Xavier in the first round of the state tournament.
Now seniors, those seven are hoping to lead the Dragons to their first state championship.
South Oldham (15-6-3) – ranked No. 5 in the state by MaherRankings.com – will face No. 6 Scott High (20-2-1) at 6 p.m. Thursday in a state tournament semifinal at Henry Clay High School. No. 1 Paul Dunbar (19-4-3), the defending state champion, will meet No. 3 Bowling Green (20-1-1) in the other semifinal at 8 p.m.
The final is set for 7 p.m. Saturday.
South Oldham is in the state semifinals for the first time, but coach Kenny Burke is hoping his team’s overall experience will be an asset. There are 13 seniors on the roster, including those seven that fell to St. X in 2012.
“I think most of those kids understand that if we had started seven seniors that night instead of seven sophomores, it might have been a different game back then,” Burke said. “This postseason they’ve had a laser-like focus. I haven’t had to reel them in our motivate them or give any rah-rah speeches. They’ve been taking care of business.”
After losing four of five matches during a two-week stretch in the middle of September, South Oldham is 8-0-2 over its past 10 and has allowed just four goals during that stretch.
Burke said center back Joseph Profancik and goalkeeper Griffin Smith – both seniors – have anchored the defense.
Meanwhile, senior midfielder Christian Lister leads the Dragons in both goals (17) and assists (11) and “is the best-kept secret in the state,” said Burke, adding that Bellarmine, Cincinnati, Kentucky and Northern Kentucky are showing the most interest among college suitors.
“He’s played in every game since his freshman year,” Burke said. “He played center midfield as a sophomore and junior, and now as a senior we needed him to play up top and he’s done it. His best quality is that he’ll play anywhere.”
Scott upset No. 1 Trinity 3-2 in Saturday’s quarterfinals in a physical match that saw both teams whistled for 11 fouls and four yellow cards. The Eagles have won nine in a row and are led on offense by seniors Blake Schneider (28 goals) and Luke Treadway (28 goals) and junior Devin Morgan (14 goals, 24 assists).
Burke scouted Scott during its game against Trinity.
“They play physical and hard and try to get your heads out of the game,” Burke said. “For 80 minutes they’re going to try to wear you out and wear you down. If you make a mistake, they’ll capitalize.”
Thursday’s other match will include two teams that also reached the semifinals last year.
After falling to St. X in the 2012 state final, Paul Dunbar beat Trinity in penalty kicks last year to capture its fourth state title. Junior Ricky Clemente scored four goals in the Bulldogs’ 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Daviess County on Saturday.
Bowling Green lost to Trinity 3-0 in last year’s state semifinals. The Purples’ lone loss this season came to Ballard, 2-1, on Aug. 30. Exodos Bargblor scored twice in Bowling Green’s 4-1 victory over Corbin in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
BOYS’ SOCCER STATE TOURNAMENT
* Where: Henry Clay High School, Lexington.
* Thursday’s semifinals: South Oldham (15-6-3) vs. Scott (20-2-1), 6 p.m.; Paul Dunbar (19-4-3) vs. Bowling Green (20-1-1), 8 p.m.
* Saturday’s final: 7 p.m.
* Defending champion: Paul Dunbar.
* Tickets: $10; children 10 and under free.