A dismal record during the regular season by the Franklin boys soccer team was buried deeper Friday night when the sixth-seeded Indians defeated top-seeded Lansdowne, 3-1, in the Class 3A North Region Section I finals at Lansdowne High School.
Franklin’s third straight regional playoff victory earned the Indians a date in the regional finals on Tuesday, Nov. 10 with C. Milton Wright.
Lansdowne’s season ends with an 11-2-1 record.
Franklin improved to 4-7-4 after winning one game during the regular season.
“I’ve been saying since August we want them peaking at the right time and that is coming to fruition now in the playoffs,” Franklin coach Kyle Curasi said.
Franklin lost a tough 1-0 game to county champion Catonsville early in the season and tied Towson and Hereford, but they didn’t start putting it all together until the regionals.
Offensively, Max Herman continued his hot postseason as he scored the first goal against Lansdowne with 14:20 remaining in the first half.
He had a breakaway and sent the ball past freshman goalie Nick White, but Viking junior defender alertly protected the goal and repelled Herman’s first shot.
The rebound came right back to Herman and he deposited it in the net.
“He has been on fire,” said Curasi, noting he’s scored five goals in the postseason.
Lansdowne only took two shots on goal in the first half and they were saved by Franklin keeper Zach Haynes.
“I feel like we came out a little flat-footed,” Lansdowne coach George Dunn said.
They were also short-footed.
During the season, midfield starter Lal Ruata moved to New York and his replacement, Hnai Muang, was unable to play because he received a red card in the Vikings’ 3-0 second-round playoff win over Milford Mill.
Also, senior captain Jaime Quansah, who had two goals and four assists during the regular season, missed the Franklin game after spraining his ankle against Milford.
“Late in the season, if you don’t have the depth, it will catch up with you,” Dunn said.
Franklin’s defense also caught up with the Vikings and stymied the speedy attack that had outscored its opponents 54-10 in the first 13 games.
“Their defense was too disciplined,” Dunn said. “They were very good at staying in their shape and they were able to stop any one-on-ones coming through.”
Franklin coach Curasi also praised the defense led by seniors Chase Goldstein, Reid Merlo and Barazani Chiwengo and sophomore Sam Westerman.
Also, senior Kyle Weinapple challenged everything from his defensive midfield position.
“They (defense)have been stellar all year,” Curasi said.
Weinapple takes pride in the defense.
“Our defense is what we look forward to pretty much.” Weinapple said. “That’s the strength of our team and that is what we rely on mostly as we work on our defense to put good pressure on the ball.”
After Muhammad Bobojonov’s flip throw-in assist was headed in by Amilcar Samudio for a 2-0 lead early in the second half, Weinapple came out of his defensive shell when he scored from 40 yards out with 20 minutes remaining in the game.
“I felt my heart pumping,” Weinapple said. “This is my senior game. This is what I wanted, this is what I come out here for. I play defense and I thought it through my mind and once the ball hit my chest I said, 'I’m going to put this in' and I kicked it and it went in and it was just a great moment.”
Before Weinapple stretched the lead to 3-0 the Vikings had a golden opportunity to cut the lead in half when Kiyusila Mikano had a breakaway shot from five yards out that was saved with a dive by Haynes.
“That was a phenomenal save,” Curasi said.
Haynes scared another Viking close scoring attempt over the crossbar from AJ McCho-Nji.
The only one Haynes couldn’t save resulted in a goal by Lansdowne’s Benny Brankoff with under six minutes remaining.
Brankoff had eight goals and four assists during the regular season.
Lansdowne kept the pressure on late and shots by Samuel Hmung and McCho-Nji were stopped by Haynes in the waning moments.
“We had our opportunities, but the ball didn’t fall our way this time,” Dunn said. “It was a great season. The guys did come together and we are only losing five seniors.”