LANCASTER — Raul Martinez could not have picked a better time to pick up his first goal of the season.
The Danville senior scored with a little more than 12 minutes left in the first half Wednesday, and that proved to be enough for the Admirals, who held off Lincoln County 2-0 in the boys 45th District Tournament final at Garrard County.
“This has been a difficult year trying to figure out who’s going to play where and who’s going to play,” Danville coach Brent Beauman said. “And it seemed like each game we were trying something different. And Jacob Rankin had a season-ending injury, Hayden (Boyd), his arm was broken Monday night, so we’ve had some injuries. It’s just been a big puzzle piece all year.”
So what’s been the biggest difference in the postseason after a tough regular season?
“Just tradition. The seniors are the first class to win districts all four years, and they have a chance to be the first ones to win region all four years,”¿Beauman said. “Just preaching tradition and all that kind of stuff.”
And the Admirals (10-7-2) got their fourth straight district title with goals from two of their most unlikely sources.
With 12:24 to play in the first half, Martinez took a pass from Christian Gateskill-Fuqua just outside the penalty box on the left side and lofted a shot that hit the top of the right post and bounced in to give Danville a 1-0 lead and set a off a huge celebration as Martinez was mobbed by his teammates.
“I thought it was going to go out because the goalie (Ian Blevins) touched it,” Martinez said. “But when it hit the post, my heart just raced when I made it. To be honest, I thought it was going to go over.”
Beauman said that goal proved to be huge as the game went on.
“We had to score early and we had to score first because I knew he had them pumped up, and I knew how much they wanted to beat us,”¿he said. “The longer we could keep the game even, the tougher it would be.”
Danville added a second goal in the second half as Carson Coulter scored just his second goal of the season when he netted a shot near the goal off an assist from Dylan Mullins with 23:37 to play.
Lincoln (11-5) had its chances, too, but could not capitalize on them.
With 21:08 to play, Danville’s Damir Karapandzic was called for a high kick in the penalty box, but goalkeeper Matt Oster made a diving stop of Carter Dunn’s penalty kick to keep the score at 1-0. Then with 13:35 to go, Dunn had a long free kick which hit the upper left post, but unlike Martinez’s shot, it did not fall in.
Lincoln coach Chaz Garcia knew his team missed prime opportunities to have a chance to tie the game.
“They scored when they could score, and we didn’t when we could have. I don’t think we got beat, they just won,” Garcia said. “I’m extremely proud of them. They fought hard, I don’t think anybody thought it would be like it was tonight. I think we’ll take this, we’ll take some notes from this and take it into region.
“I think emotions are flowing right now. They really wanted this win, but they didn’t get it. Now we have to go into a tough regional.”
Danville outshot Lincoln 19-7, and both teams move on to next week’s 12th Region Tournament at Mercer County, where the Admirals will go for their fourth straight regional title. Beauman said the test they got Wednesday will help next week.
“Chaz has done an awesome job. (Former coach)¿Wendy (Peters) got them going, the last two years they were in the region, and Chaz has continued to bring them on,”¿Beauman said of Lincoln. “We’ve got some good competition in the region, but if we fight like we were tonight we might have a chance against the Wests (Jessamines) and the Mercers.”
While he’s been a starter on three other district title teams, Gateskill-Fuqua said this title was different.
“It’s crazy because we’re the first class to do this, but this one really feels like it’s ours,” he said. “There are so many good players to come through here over the years. And not to say we haven’t contributed but this one is ours, and it was the goal.
“At Danville, our goal is to win championships, and to put in all the work on the offseason, it pays off. It feels great.”
Danville — Christian Gateskill-Fuqua, Damir Karapandzic, Matt Oster, Carson Coulter, Corey Steber.
Lincoln County — Carter Dunn, Santana Hocker, Carl Lewis Cummins, Ian Blevins.
Garrard County — Brandon Shuey.
Boyle County — Kyle Settle.