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CRESTWOOD – Collins boys’ soccer coach Scott Cress wanted to play South Oldham in the first round of the 8th Region Tournament.
That’s because he preferred to play the Dragons on his home field.
Instead he got South Oldham on its home field Tuesday night in the tournament semifinals, with a less-than-desired result.
The Dragons made the most of its pitch, ending the best season in Collins’ brief history with a 1-0 victory over the fifth-ranked Titans.
“Their field is so much different than ours,” said Cress, whose team beat Owen County, 4-0, Monday at Titans Stadium in the first round of the 8th Region Tournament. “It plays so much faster. It's faster, and it's narrower than ours, and because of that, it takes ten to fifteen minutes to get adjusted to it.”
It was during that adjustment period that South Oldham junior Davis Ferriel scored the game’s lone goal.
“Then once they got one goal all they had to do was play defense,” said Cress, whose team ended its third season 17-2-2.
The Titans beat the Dragons, 3-1, back on Sept. 10 in Crestwood. In that match Zack Miller scored in the 21st minute to give Collins a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
This time, though, it was South Oldham (13-8-2) that drew first blood when Nathan Ball sent a ball into the box, where Ferriel found it with his foot during a scrum in front of the goal and put it into the net.
“They came out pretty hard, and we came out flat-footed the first fifteen minutes," said Collins goalkeeper Brandon Hughes, who narrowly missed heading Ferriel’s flick out of the goal.
The Titans settled in shortly thereafter, though, and started to play their possession game, although on the narrower field there weren’t as many open spaces for them to utilize.
Collins had a couple of its best scoring opportunities late in the first half. The first came on Walker Andriot’s free kick, which South keeper Griffin Smith corralled, in the 34th minute. Moments later Hughes made a diving save to keep it a one-goal match. Then, in the final seconds of the half, Andriot passed ahead to Miller down the right side. Miller made a run and fired a right-footed shot that barely missed wide left.
“We had a couple of good shots,” Hughes said. “Zack's shot went three inches wide.”
Collins had a couple of more chances early in the second half. In the 45th minute Austin Lanham’s laser shot went wide left, then two minutes later Austin Huff’s header popped up over the crossbar.
The next 25 minutes featured four yellow cards, during the physical second half, and two more opportunities for the Titans. However, Andriot’s shot in the 58th minute was stomached by Smith and Jeff Cook’s shot two minutes later sailed over the goal.
“We were able to get opportunities,” Cress said. “We kept on shooting and shooting and shooting.”
The Titans’ last best chance came with a little less than 9 minutes remaining when Hughes came up to take a free kick from 35 yards out. He launched it into the box, but Smith came down with it before any of Collins’ set piece specialists (i.e. Chris Shuck, Caleb Vogel) could get a head on it.
Hughes then was put to the test in the final 5 minutes as he faced three solid South shots. He saved two of them and saw the other bounce off the left post.
The Titans couldn’t come up with another shot as things got heated in the final seconds (Shuck received a red card) in what has been Collins’ biggest, and best, rivalry so far.
Four of the last five meetings between the two teams have been decided by one goal. The Dragons ended the Titans’ first season with a 2-1 overtime victory in the 16th District semifinals in 2010 before Collins swept South, 1-0, in two matches last season, the second of which was the district semifinals.
“It's like this every year,” Hughes said. “It's a lucky goal every year.”
“It takes a little luck to win championships, and tonight we didn’t have much luck,” Cress said.