Knowing his team needed a spark, Josh Gray saw an opportunity and sprinted with it.

His team having just given up the tying goal, the St. Paul Academy midfielder took the ball at midfield and raced down the right side with less than 10 minutes left.

Nearing the goal, he hit a low pass across the front. Teammate Peter Wood directed the ball into the net, lifting the Spartans to a 2-1 victory over St. Cloud Cathedral in the Class 1A boys' soccer semifinals at the Metrodome.

"Josh is one of the most athletic players in the state," St. Paul Academy coach Max Lipset said. "He knows when we need him to make a play. He's the type of player every coach dreams about coaching."

The goal spoiled a spirited second half by Cathedral, which had been thoroughly dominated in the first half as St. Paul Academy (19-0-2) led 1-0. The Crusaders (18-1-2) did not manage a shot in the first 40 minutes. They put on steady pressure after that, resulting in a tying goal by Myles Hagen in the 64th minute.

"We moved our defense forward and controlled more of the middle of the field," Cathedral coach John Pepper said.

Not satisfied with just setting up the would-be winner, Gray added the game's crucial defensive play minutes later when he leapt over a Cathedral player to head a dangerous pass out of harm's way.

"We got a little complacent after that first half," Gray said. "You have to do whatever it takes if you want to be the best."