A battle of two teams sitting near the top of the Class B rankings and power points standings went to the visitors in Monday's 5-1 Lexington win over Columbus.
The Minutemen put the Discoverers on their heels early with a goal in the first 10 minutes, doubled their advantage not long after and used that early success to set the tone for an 11th win of the season.
Lexington has only lost twice this year, both to Class A teams, and showed its quality for the first 40 minutes of the contest. Columbus eventually responded early in the second half, but trailing 3-0, a comeback against the No. 3 team in Class B was too steep a hill to climb.
The Discoverers had risen to No. 5 in the latest Lincoln Journal Star prep ratings and hadn't lost since a 3-0 defeat to Class A No. 4 Lincoln Southwest on March 28.
They had rattled off seven wins in a row and a Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference tournament championship before Monday.
The difference this time around, coach John Arlt said, was an inability to match the opponents' intensity from the first whistle.
"We were absolutely not ready to play when the game started and they were, so I don't want to take anything away from Lexington because they played well. But our energy and our intensity was not there, and I don't know why," he said. "It's a top-five matchup. Why are we not ready to go? We just mentally were not there."
Lexington took advantage of the slow start with a goal before Columbus had much of a chance to settle in. The Discoverers, somewhat slow starters all season, then found themselves in a 2-0 hole when David Jimenez used his speed to turn the corner on the flank of the Columbus defense and rip a shot into the net.
A Lexington counter attack after a Columbus corner then turned disastrous when a Discoverer defender attempted to block a cross inside the penalty area but instead deflected it directly to a wide-open Brandon Perez waiting on the doorstep. He made it 3-0.
Columbus answered on a goal from Garrett Esch in the 45th minute when he collected a rebound from Ivan Lopez's shot on goal and tapped it past the keeper. But while that provided some brief belief, Lexington turned away every other Columbus chance.
Forced to gamble and bring the formation up the field late in the game, the Discoverers paid for it with two goals surrendered 30 seconds apart in the 78th then 79th minute.
Columbus will try to get back on track right with a makeup road match Tuesday in North Platte.
"We changed things up in the second half, yes we got a goal, but our energy was so much better. For the first 30 minutes, we were right with them the whole way. The last two goals, I'm not concerned with because we were pressing the issue," Arlt said. "But we've got to come out with intensity from the first whistle."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org