FRANKLIN, Mass- The Franklin Panthers dominated Wednesday afternoon’s matchup of the top two teams in the Kelley-Rex Division and took the lead in the league with a 1-0 win over Taunton at a chilly Pisini Field.
Junior midfielder Joe Kalil scored the lone goal of the game 11 minutes into the second half.
Connor Morrissette started the play with a cross from the left side that may have taken a touch on its way across the face of goal before Kalil flicked it home from just a few yards out.
The goal had been coming since the opening kick-off as Franklin (9-2-4) were the far more energetic team and consistently found room down the outside of the Taunton (7-6-2) defense. Senior midfielder Matt Bascom in particular was a constant threat for the Panthers.
Franklin coach Fran Bositis was proud of his team’s effort and pressure – right up until the goal.
“I thought we did a real good job of pressuring them in the first half, the only thing we didn’t do well was put the ball in the net. We continued to do that in the second half until we scored the goal. Then all of a sudden…”
Taunton’s only consistent spell of pressure came in the game’s final 10 minutes as they desperately threw men forward to find an equalizer. The Tigers’ best chance of the second half fell to star striker Mike Shaheen on a corner that was headed to the edge of the box, but he could not keep his shot down.
Coach Dave Purpura was disappointed with his team’s effort in the first half as his leading goalscorer could barely get a touch of the ball in the opening 40 minutes.
“We knew that they were going to be hyped up and we saw that coming out. We expected it, we just didn’t match their intensity in the opening 40 minutes. In this type of contest, when you have two good teams facing each other, somebody is going to get outworked and today, we simply got outworked.”
Franklin should have doubled its lead several times in the second half. Sophomore Scotty Donaldson found himself one-on-one with Taunton keeper Marc Gleason (10 saves in the game), but had his shot blocked by the Tigers’ captain and the loose ball cleared off the line by Blake Harris.
Donaldson would have another chance a few minutes later but was robbed again by a Gleason kick save before sending the rebound through the uprights. Morrissette would also be guilty of a big miss just a minute later and senior midfielder Eric Hall had a golden opportunity skip off his toe as he stretched to get on the end of a cross.
In the end, Taunton were not able to test Franklin’s goalie Jesse D’Entermont with Shaheen and fellow captain Danny Belair forced to settle for long-range shots. Sam McGillis, Hall, and Derek Field were tenacious in the tackle and any mistakes were covered by Zach Scafati.
“He’s our glue that keeps the team together back there,” said Bositis in reference to Scafati’s leadership at the back. “He’s the Kevin Garnett, he sets the tone for us.”
In the first half, Franklin continually exploited room down the right side with Bascom and sophomore Tim Larowe nearly got on the end of several good crosses into the box. The Panthers struggled to create a clear-cut chance and were nearly punished when David Briody suddenly found room in the box and chipped a shot off the crossbar.
It was warning for Franklin, but nothing more. The Panthers took control of the game and the league lead as the season enters its final weeks.
Franklin will play North Attleboro on Friday afternoon. Taunton will get a few days off as a scheduling conflict moved its game with King Philip from Friday to Monday.