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LOUISVILLE – South Oldham had the state’s best boys soccer team on the ropes for one half Thursday night.
The Dragons were controlling possession against in the first half against No. 1 St. Xavier, generating chances and keeping the Tigers’ dangerous scorers away from the ball.
But St. X finally broke through in the second half, getting two goals apiece from Joe Workman and Jack Somervell and beating South 4-2 at Br. Thomas More Stadium.
The Tigers have win five of the last six state titles and saw an 59-match uneaten streak end last weekend with losses to St. Louis University High School (Mo.) and Liberty (Ohio). They also beat South twice last year, including a 3-0 win in the first round of last year’s state tournament.
Dragon coach Kenny Burke compared Thursday’s match against a physical, talented St. X team to a UFC fight.
“I told the boys that at the end of it they were wearing on us, wearing on us, wearing on us, and we got tired,” Burke said. “They were able to find some seams down the middle and that’s what did it.”
South controlled much of the first half and came close to a goal 10 minutes into the match. Alex Benson fired a shot at the Tiger goal, but St. X keeper Jack Luvisi dove left and made the save.
Dragon keeper Sam Beck matched Luvisi’s save with a fingertip save of his own six minutes later to keep the match scoreless. South kept the Tigers from generating any chances better than that one for the rest of the first period.
“Possession’s our strength,” Burke said. “When we’re able to keep the ball we control the game a little bit better and one of the things, like I was just saying, they play a very physical game.
“They were in our back a lot and (the refs) let them play it. I’m fine with that. But it does wear you out, and they’ve got probably 25 guys while we’ve probably been playing 15 and that makes a big difference.”
Eventually St. X broke through. Seven minutes into the second half the Tigers won a 50-50 ball at midfield. The ball ended up at the feet of striker Workman, who put a hard shot past Beck and into the South net to break the scoreless tie.
Workman put in another with 27 minutes to play, doubling the advantage.
The Dragons responded quickly, when Cooper Cantrell got the South on the board with 24:51 to play, collecting a rebound off Luvisi and putting it home.
‘The defender actually tripped me” Cantrell said, “and he cut back and the guy touched it and I just ran up and put it in the goal.”
But the momentum was short lived.
Somervell scored goals at the 19:35 and 15:43 marks, making the score 4-1 and putting the match out of reach. A Davis Ferriell chip over Luvisi with three minutes to play made South’s final deficit 4-2.
The Dragons now have two days to get ready for a district showdown with rival North Oldham. South is 0-1 in district play after a loss to Oldham County two weeks ago.
“We’ve got some key, crucial district games coming up and (St. X) is a great tune-up for us,” Burke said. “I’m glad we scheduled St. X in the middle of the season because we see what’s waiting for us at the end.”