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Boys Soccer: ‘Adding to our dream,' Francis Scott Key advances to state semifinals

After a thrilling 3-2 overtime win at Williamsport in Tuesday night’s Class 1A West Region 2 final, Francis Scott Key boys soccer coach Larry Haines was unsure how his team would respond in Friday’s state quarterfinal against Benjamin Franklin High School.

The win gave the Eagles their first regional championship since 1992, but they knew little about their opponent.

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FSK was ready from the start, however scoring three goals in the first 23 minutes on its way to a 4-1 win over the Bayhawks at Baybrook Park in Baltimore. The Eagles will play either International High School-Langley Park or Patterson Mill next Friday or Saturday at Northeast High School in Anne Arundel County.

“I’m proud of our boys to step up and elevate our play again,” Haines said. “After a big regional win we didn’t really know where we’d be and we stepped up.”

Francis Scott Key (8-5-2) controlled the run of play in the first half, putting the pressure on Benjamin Franklin’s backline early. The first goal came as both teams were starting to feel each other out, as junior Jacob Staub curled a free kick in from 20 yards out to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.

“Usually our success at the end happens because of how successful we were at the beginning,” Haines said. “If we score first and score quick, it takes the pressure off us and the game can be played the way we like to play it.

10 minutes later, the Eagles struck again. Senior Kolton Puckett played a ball that was sent through into the box and shot it into the back of the net to double the lead. FSK had a few more opportunities after that before striking again in the 23rd minute. A shot by Puckett bounced outside of the box, and senior Jakub Mihulka corralled the ball, took one dribble and fired a rocket into the goal.

“We were able to take advantage of their backline with through-balls and balls over the top,” Mihulka said. I think That’s our strength and we played to our strength, which is speed, foot skill and moving the ball around in the offensive third.”

While the Eagles were getting chance after chance, Benjamin Franklin struggled when it got the ball past midfield, and didn’t register a shot until the 26th minute. Francis Scott Key was the bigger and more cohesive team, and the Bayhawks didn’t have many chances to use their speed to their advantage.

Benjamin Franklin was the aggressor to start the second half, applying more pressure to try to chip away at the Eagles’ 3-0 lead. Francis Scott Key goalie Nathan Perry made two saves on shots early in the half to keep the Bayhawks at bay, but they finally got on the board in the 53rd minute on a free kick from Jonathan Sanchez about 40 yards from the goal.

“Really impressed with (Benjamin Franklin) tonight,” Haines said. ”They gave a lot of heart and kept coming at us and have some talented players.”

In the 60th minute FSK handled two corner kicks by the Bayhawks, and Mihulka put the game away with his second goal in the 69th minute. From there, Haines emptied the bench and the Eagles savored another chance to extend their unforgettable season.

“It was a dream come true to win a regional for most of these kids,” Haines said. “We’re adding to our dream.”

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