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Boys soccer: South pleases big crowd with win over St. X

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By Brad Stephens

CRESTWOOD – As the clock ticked down Wednesday night a South Oldham administrator stood in front of the entrance of a packed student section.

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He allowed one student to go out and remove two metal barricades separating the rubber track at Dragon Stadium from the turf field.

The administrator then temporarily held back the students while waiting for South and St. Xavier soccer players to shake hands.

Finally he stepped to the side and allowed a crowd of about 200 white-clad students to run out and celebrate the Dragons’ first-ever win against the powerhouse Tigers, a 2-0 home triumph.

From there the students and team made a massive huddle at midfield, flying a white South flag in the center. Some players high-fived their friends, while others stood to the outside overcome with emotion.

“I don’t want to make this game bigger than it is because we have a lot of season ahead of us, but we did something South’s never done, that a lot of schools can’t say they’ve done,” Dragon senior captain Joseph Profancik said. “It’s very special.”

No. 9 South (5-2) has suffered its share of losses to St. X over the years, including a 4-2 defeat last year, a 3-0 loss in the 2012 state quarterfinals and a 3-2 loss in penalty kicks in the 2012 Ballard Invitational.

So after his Dragons beat this year’s No. 4 Tigers (1-2-2), coach Kenny Burke told his players to appreciate how significant a moment it was for South soccer.

“There have only been 40 or so soccer state championships in the state of Kentucky and they’ve won 12,” Burke said. “Everybody sets their sights for that… just playing with them and being able to compete and show we can do it on that level, that means a lot for us.”

Making the upset even more special for the Dragons was that they won in front of students who took up an entire bleacher section.

The kids came early, celebrated wildly after Nathan Roshelli and Thomas French scored South’s two goals, heckled Tiger players after physical plays and stayed to the end, when they were allowed to take the field.

“They were as pumped up as we were,” French, a junior reserve, said of the crowd. “It definitely contributed to our play.”

South won Wednesday by staking itself to an early lead, then not allowing St. X to chip away at the margin.

Almost seven minutes into the match, Roshelli, a senior, got the ball on a breakaway down the left side.

Shooting from a difficult angle, he put the ball past diving Tiger keeper Alexander Popovich and hard into the right post.

The ball careened in, putting South on the board first with a 1-0 lead with 33:07 left in the first half.

Less than 10 minutes later, French, who’d just recently checked into the match, doubled the Dragon advantage.

Senior Mason Howard got on a run down the middle of the field and found French streaking on the right wing.

Howard played a through-ball to French, who hammed a goal home to make the score 2-0 with 24:09 left in the opening period.

Scoring right in front of a frenzied student body, French, Jonas Prenn, Matt Longstreet, Daniel Weller and others jumped, yelled and ran around wildly.

“If anything, we stepped it up a lot when we subbed,” Burke said. “Obviously Thomas French was a substitute that came on. That’s very pleasing to see that no matter who was on the field, they were all playing fantastic.”

French’s goal was his first of the year. A total of 13 Dragons have scored through seven matches this season, with Christian Lister scoring a team-high six.

“If we move the ball well and play it around it can be anybody on any different night,” Burke said. “I don’t think we’re going to get a 30-goal scorer this year but we might get 30 guys scoring two.”

The lead stood intact thanks to a solid performance from a back line of Profancik, Davis Higdon, Wes Smith, Chris Martin and Matt Crenshaw and goalkeeper Griffin Smith.

Other than Profancik and Griffin Smith, the other defensive Dragons were playing in spots they hadn’t often played for South on the varsity level.

“I thought they played great,” Roshelli said. “We’ve got three players back there that don’t usually play defense and they showed up big vs. a top five team in the state.”

St. X had some chances but was never able to get on the board.

Promising Tiger chances were snuffed out by a nifty Profancik tackle in the box with 17 minutes left in the second half and a leaping Smith save off a free kick with 13 minutes to go.

“We’ve been teasing Griff because he hasn’t been vocal and demanding and this game he proved himself as one of the best goalies in the state, no doubt,” Profancik said. “I’m so proud of him.”

The game got a little chippy over the closing stages, with a St. X assistant getting ejected after arguing a call.

South’s students responded with a “Na-Na-Hey-Goodbye” chant directed at the ejected coach.

The students continued making an impact, but it was the keeper and his defense that sealed the deal in the final minutes.

“The pressure was crazy knowing we have the biggest group of kids in the stands, probably bigger than a football game,” Griffin Smith said. “It’s the greatest pressure in my life and knowing my defense in front of me held it… it’s all to my defense.”