By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
Model Laboratory (18-1) advanced to tonight’s semifinals of the 11th Region Tournament by defeating Western Hills 4-2 in a very physical game Tuesday.
Henry Clay (13-5-3), tonight’s opponent, is also a very physical team, as was evident in its 2-1 overtime win over Tates Creek in Tuesday’s first round.
Model coach Steve Savage said he expects tonight’s matchup to be another tough one for the Patriots.
“I saw Henry Clay for the first time tonight and they look very physical,” Savage said on Tuesday. “They are big and strong. I don’t know how we will match up with them physically. It will be interesting.”
Model enters the contest as the highest-scoring team in the region with 120 goals on the year, and has allowed the second fewest goals in the region, 18.
The Blue Devils are not nearly as potent an offensive team, scoring 63 on the season, but they are much better on defense where they have allowed only 28 goals; fourth-best in the region.
It was the Blue Devils’ defense that came through for them on Tuesday, Savage said.
“Tates Creek really dominated Henry Clay. They just didn’t seem to be able to finish,” Savage said. “Henry Clay didn’t get many shots, but they got enough to win.”
The Patriots didn’t play their best game of the year Tuesday, missing on several breakaway opportunities, but they eventually pulled away in the second half.
The Patriots need to get a lead and not allow Henry Clay to hang around, as Tates Creek did, Savage said, because bad things can happen in close contests.
“We had the goal on that strange bounce after the ball popped into the air. When games are close you never know what will happen,” Savage said. “That’s why I like to have a four or five goal lead because stuff happens. Stuff happens.”
Model will once again have an advantage in speed over the Blue Devils. In Tuesday’s contest, Western Hills chose to try to rough up the Patriots, especially Andrew Wylie, to try and slow down their potent offense.
But as they have done all season, the Patriots didn’t allow the tactics to get to them and didn’t retaliate.
Wylie didn’t score in the contest but his teammates picked up the slack.
Noah Valencia in particular stepped to the forefront, using his superior speed to get open for shots all night, finding the back of the net twice.
Valencia said he expects much the same tactics from the Blue Devils in tonight’s matchup, but he’s confident the Patriots can handle the challenge.
“It’s going to be a challenging game, probably our most challenging of the season, but I know we can do it,” Valencia said. “Western Hills was very physical but we held up. That’s what we are good at. We always keep our heads and stay gentlemen on the field.”
In the past three seasons, this group of Model seniors has compiled a 48-6-5 record, won three consecutive district titles and picked up a pair of regional tournament wins.
Game time is set for 8 p.m. at Lafayette High School.