LEXINGTON – For much of the second half it looked as if the 11th Region tournament opener for Franklin County’s boys soccer team would end the same way as its district championship game – with overtime and penalty kicks.
But a goal from Nathan Hale with 1:44 left in the game gave the Flyers a 3-2 victory over Scott County Tuesday at Henry Clay High School.
FCHS (13-6-2) will play Dunbar in the semifinals Thursday at 8 p.m. Dunbar defeated Madison Southern in Tuesday’s first game.
It took a strong second half for the Flyers to reach the semifinals.
“We did not play well in the first half,” FCHS coach Zac Donnelly said. “It was focus, there were mental mistakes, and it wasn’t just one person. It kind of carried over, the mental mistakes, and it cost us two goals.
“We fought tooth and nail to get back in it and scored in the last two minutes for an exciting finish. We definitely didn’t want to go to penalty kicks again.”
It was Franklin County that scored first Tuesday, with a throw-in by Nick Cumpston that was deflected by the Scott County keeper and went into the net with 23:07 left in the first half.
The lead was short-lived as Scott County’s Cameron Cool scored with 21:38 remaining.
The game remained tied until a free kick by Cool after an FCHS penalty got past the Flyers’ wall and into the goal.
The Cardinals (12-7) led 2-1 at halftime, having controlled the ball for much of the first half.
It was a different story in the second half as FCHS was able to keep the ball on its offensive end of the field.
“We came out with more intensity,” Hale said about the second half. “We stepped to the ball, and we tried to string together more passes. That opened up their team, and we were able to find more opportunities.”
The Flyers took advantage of one opportunity when Logan Doris scored off an assist from Rolman Delgado. That tied the game at 2-2 with 26:39 remaining.
“We played a tremendous second half,” Donnelly said. “We played much better in the second half than we did in the first half.
“There was much more intensity. We had to fight; we had that single elimination mentality. We played much better soccer.”
While the Flyers kept Scott County on the defensive for most of the second half, they weren’t able to take the lead until Hale scored on a header with just over 1½ minutes remaining.
The play started with a throw-in by Cumpston.
“It was deflected,” Hale said of the throw-in. “I watched the ball and followed it up. I was blessed I was able to get a touch on it and get it in the back of the net.
“It was definitely a close game. All props to those guys. They played really well. We knew we had to play hard. We didn’t always do that, but we were able to finish our opportunities and get the win.”
Nathan Kring was in goal for the Flyers.
FCHS now faces Dunbar (20-3), which defeated Franklin County 5-0 on Sept. 25 in Lexington.
“They’re a great team,” Donnelly said. “They beat us earlier in the season. We’ll go back and watch some film and try to make some adjustments.
“We have to play two good halves. We can’t play one good half and expect to win, but we look forward to the challenge and continuing to play at the highest level.”
In Thursday’s other semifinal, Woodford County and Lexington Catholic will play at 6 p.m. Both teams played their first-round games Monday with Woodford beating Model 3-1 and Lexington Catholic edging Henry Clay 2-1.