LEXINGTON — Few if any football teams defeated Peyton Manning and Tom Brady back-to-back in the same playoffs. And rarely has the player who upset Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal in a tennis major had the energy left for Roger Federer in the next round.
That's the stone wall Great Crossing boys' soccer ran into Wednesday night. Two days after turning the 11th Region tournament upside down with a stunning upset of the 14th-ranked team in the nation, the Warhawks went quietly on a rainy evening at Turner Memorial Stadium, 7-0 to Lexington Catholic in the semifinals.
Catesby Clay collected a hat trick for the Knights (17-6), including a back-breaking transition goal that doubled Catholic's lead from one goal to two in the final seconds of the first half.
“I think that's the goal that did us in mentally,” GC coach Nick Maxwell said. “On the free kick that we had right before the half, if we had just taken enough time and set it up instead of rushing that, I think, A, we kill a little clock and that's not that chance for a counter, but B, we're OK with that even if we don't score and that mindset's a little different going into the half.”
Lexington Catholic, a team peppered with Scott County residents and players who honed their skills growing up at Georgetown Football Club, grabbed another goal on a header from Jaxon Witajewski in the opening minute of the second half and only tore it farther open from there.
Clay quickly popped in his second and third goals, followed by strikes from Connor Griese and Jojo Lancho, resoundingly punching the Knights' ticket to Saturday's final against Paul Laurence Dunbar.
“Going down 2-0 to a team that high presses and high attacks like that is tough,” Maxwell said. “The second half we got down 4-0, 5-0 pretty quickly. We opened things up to try to get a goal. We're already down, so what's the worst case on the gamble?”
Coming off its 3-2, double-overtime stunner over Madison Central, GC’s slow start was no surprise. But the Warhawks quickly settled in and dominated a 15-minute stretch late in the first half with a chance to pull even.
Preston Welch's return to the lineup sparked the Warhawks, as did the hustle of Ethan Payne and Aiden Bryan on no fewer than five corner kicks and numerous other set plays deep in the attacking third.
Spencer Morrison cleaned up at the end of a Lexington Catholic corner kick to put the Great Crossing (11-8-3) in that catch-up mode only three minutes into the contest. Lexington Catholic used a similar first-half flurry to prevail 4-1 in the regular-season matchup.
“We struggle the first few minutes of matches sometimes,” Maxwell said. “Unfortunately they might have thought the job was already done with the win against a really good team, but if you don't come out to put in the work, then it happens.”
Of course, a semifinal shellacking won't be the lasting image of this tournament or season.
“High school sports is about putting up results, but it's also about setting some memories,” Maxwell said. “I think these boys have a memory from Monday night that will last quite a while, but also I think they built quite a few of those through the season in both the ups and downs.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.