by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKE FOREST — After finishing the regular season off strong, the Franklin Academy boys soccer season came to an end in a 5-1 loss to visiting Raleigh Charter in the third round of the state 1A playoffs November 6.
Coming into the game, the Patriots were a number three seed and had come from behind to defeat Raleigh Charter 7-5 two weeks ago. Franklin Academy also was the team to put the Phoenix out of the state playoffs last season.
This time, however; Raleigh Charter came out on the field with a mission in mind and found the key to success.
“I think they were looking to win, especially since we defeated them in last year’s playoffs,” said Franklin Academy soccer coach Michael Hunt. “They wanted it badly this time.”
“With that said, I do think they were a bit apprehensive about the match given the outcome of our last match,” Hunt added. “I fully expected it to be a great match between two great teams and it was.”
Even with the loss, the Patriots celebrated another successful season. They finished in a three way tie for first place in the North Central Athletic Conference with Raleigh Charter and Woods Charter and won the draw for the top seed. Their final overall record was 14-6 and in the league they finished 12-2.
“Winning the conference and making it to the sweet 16 is a great accomplishment and I am extremely proud of these boys,” Hunt said. “We had a winning streak of 14 matches in the end and it was a fantastic season, one that I hope they remember for the rest of their lives.”
Raleigh Charter, 20-5, 12-2, came out aggressively early on and scored their first goal at the 25:55 mark.
Minutes later, Franklin Academy nearly scored off a corner kick and another shot was caught by Raleigh Charter keeper Griffin Miller, who ended the game with 13 saves.
The Phoenix went up 2-0 on a straight shot, which landed inside the back of the net at the 16:26 mark.
The Patriots missed on three back to back corner kick opportunities, all within six minutes.
Nick Hughes’ shot at the 7:45 mark in the first half sailed over the crossbar and his second attempt three minutes later did the same and the score stood at 2-0 throughout the break.
During the halftime Hunt said he discussed with his team the specifics for their attacks and what they were trying to do in the final third.
“To be honest, I felt good about the way we were playing and I told them that,” he said. “I felt we had a better chance to score and more of them; they just weren’t going in.”
“I really felt that if we kept playing like we did, we would begin putting the ball in the goal and the game would change,” Hunt added. “We were playing some very nice soccer.”
If the Patriots had of scored in the first half Hunt said it would have changed the complexion of the entire match.
“We had some really good opportunities and I had the right boys in place to take them, but they just did get in,” he said. “You need a bit of luck and a lot of hard work to continue through the playoffs and we just weren’t able to get that early goal that we needed.”
Stellar defensive play was the story for each team as both sides struggled to maintain possession past midfield in the first 25 minutes of the second half.
After several minutes of entertaining back and forth play, Raleigh Charter broke through first.
Their sixth shot in the half found its way in the top of the net at the 15:34 mark, extending the Phoenix’s lead to 3-0.
Franklin Academy built several scoring opportunities but the Phoenix was very tough with their possession and their pressure.
Raleigh Charter broke through again with 5:44 left in the game and then again with 58 seconds remaining.
Senior Brian Gonzalez scored the lone goal for the Patriots at the 1:17 mark.
“I thought we played well until the final whistle blew,” Hunt said, “which doesn’t surprise me. These boys had the work ethic and desire and I knew that they would play tough for the entire match. I was extremely proud of that.”
Hunt said the score of the match was not indicative of the way the match played out.
“If you were there, you knew that it was evenly matched and well played by both teams,” he said. “The boys had learned so much over the course of the year and it showed and it was a pleasure to watch them play, even in a losing effort.”
“It’s always tough too to see the seniors play that final match of their high school careers,” Hunt added.
Franklin Academy loses six seniors to graduation including Jesse Frutiger, Gonzalez, Chris Hughes, Gabe Milioni, Cory Voorhis and Reshaun Pintard.