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South Oldham was in a similar situation one year ago at this time.
The Dragons had split their two regular season matchups with Oldham County and beaten the Colonels in the District 29 title. The teams met a fourth time in the Region 8 championship game, and South beat OC 2-0.
This season South split two regular season games with North Oldham and beat the Mustangs 3-1 in last week's District 29 final. Now the Dragons will play North a fourth time, with everything on the line.
No. 14 North and No. 9 South will meet at 7 p.m. tonight at Collins High School in Shelbyville. The loser sees their season end, while the winner hosts the Region 5 champion Monday night in the first round of the state tournament.
Dragon coach Kenny Burke said the big difference between last year's fourth meeting with OC and this year's fourth tilt against North is the veteran experience the Mustangs bring.
Key North contributors like Quinn Foster, Jad Vicich and Hunter Wafford are seniors.
“They have a senior-led group,” Burke said. “Neither one of us last year had that. I had several seniors that were good kids and OC had a couple of them but none of those kids were play-makers.
"And North has the play-makers this year, they just happen to be seniors... Those guys are hungry and if they get goal scoring chances they'll probably take care of it.”
The Mustang firepower was evident Tuesday night late in a region semifinal match with No. 3 Collins High School. The teams went to penalty kicks after playing 80 minutes of regulation and 10 minutes of overtime tied 0-0.
With the season on the line in PK's, Bradley Dean, Wafford, Will Allen and Sean Williams-Harris all knocked in their penalties. Two Seth Junion saves preserved a 4-2 shootout advantage and a North win.
The win was North's second shutout victory in three weeks against the Titans. The first a 1-0 defeat on Oct. 8, had come on Collins' Senior Night.
“We thought they were going to come out extremely strong in the second half and with a lot of emotion,” Mustang coach Chad Niedert said. “And it almost seemed like they were sitting back, laying behind.
“We ended up getting a winning result, which is all we need at this point of the year, but I think we still would've deserved to win that whether it's in regulation or PK's.”
South also played a tight game Tuesday, beating Simon Kenton 2-0. Alex Benson and Christopher Martin converted the Dragons' two goals in a game Niedert said wasn't as close as the final outcome.
“It actually reminded me a little of our game against Carroll County Monday night,” Niedert said, “because they completely dominated Simon Kenton and the score was not nearly as indicative of how dominant they were over Simon Kenton.”
North and South have played three highly competitive games against each other this season.
The Dragons prevailed 2-0 Sept. 7, getting two goals from Davis Ferriell. North took the regular season rematch Sept. 14 2-1 on penalty kicks. Then last Wednesday in the district champ game, North took a 1-0 lead before South put the game away with three second half goals in a 3-1 win.
“Last week's game... is probably the one we're most bitter about because I think we came out flat,” Niedert said. “We didn't seem to match them during the second half. And we were winning and gave it away...We didn't match their intensity for the second half.
“I think if we play emotional... we'll be pretty strong (Thursday) night.”
Burke said South will have to play its “best game” if the Dragons are to beat North in the team's fourth and most important meeting.
“We cannot take a half off as we did against North in the district final,” Burke said. “We don't want to dig any holes if we're going to be successful Thursday.”