Fern Creek’s dream season came to an end Tuesday night at North Oldham High School.
The No. 15 Tigers (19-1-0), undefeated throughout the regular and playoffs, fell behind just four minutes into the match as South Oldham powered its way to a 3-1 win in Semistate Four.
“I thought physically we were outmatched from the get-go,” said Fern Creek coach John Pedro. “Their set pieces really hurt us. . . We didn’t play well. We didn’t play our style. But give them (the Dragons) credit. They took us out of our game.
“We couldn’t pass and penetrate like we wanted to,” Pedro said. “They put us under a lot of pressure. . . We just couldn’t handle it tonight.”
The fifth-ranked Dragons (14-6-3) now will advance to the state quarterfinals for just the second time in school history. South Oldham will take on Rowan County at 4 p.m. Saturday at Lexington Henry Clay. Rowan County advanced with a 6-1 win over Perry County Central.
South Oldham last reached the quarterfinals in 2009, losing to eventual state champion St. Xavier.
Just four minutes into the match, South Oldham’s Jonas Prenn tried a shot from the right side, Fern Creek goalkeeper Mkandama Alfani deflected it and Chris Martin punched it in from the left side.
“It bounced right to me,” Martin said. “I just knocked it in.”
With 8:15 left in the first half, the Dragons added to their lead when Alfani left the goal to defend Prenn, who was about 15 yards from the goal on the right side. The ball slipped past Alfani and trickled into the goal.
“Once we got the second goal, that allowed us to be able to breathe a little bit and just play our game,” said South Oldham coach Kenneth Burke.
As time in the first half winded down, Martin nearly scored again. This time, he took a shot about 20 yards from the left side and it zipped over Alfani’s head into the net as time expired.
The officials ruled the ball reached the goal after time elapsed.
“I wasn’t aware of how much time was on the clock,” Martin said. “I heard the horn. It did go off right the ball went in.”
Martin, however, recorded his second goal less than two minutes into the second half on a header with 38:18 remaining.
“He played great tonight,” Burke said of Martin, a junior. “He played like an upperclassman. He played like a senior tonight.”
Even with the 3-0 lead, Burke said he didn’t feel comfortable against Fern Creek. “They’ve scored 85 goals this year,” he said. “Our defense is playing really well.”
The Tigers got their only goal of the match with 34:44 left as Saul Olivas offered a corner back and Secou Drame delivered the ensuing header.
Pedro tried to console his team after the loss. “Like I told them, I’d want any of them to be my kids,” he said while unsuccessfully fighting back tears. “These have done something that’s never been done at this school. Even though we didn’t play well, they put their heart and soul on the line. That’s all I can ask for.”