WAKE FOREST Ahead by two goals at halftime, Raleigh Charter knew it couldn’t relax during the final 40 minutes, especially against a Franklin Academy team the Phoenix had seen twice already.
The memory of last month’s loss at Franklin was fresh, but Raleigh Charter maintained control Wednesday to take a 5-1 win in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A boys’ soccer playoffs.
Two weeks ago, Raleigh Charter (19-5) found itself on the wrong end of a six-goal swing. The Phoenix was ahead 4-1 in the second North Central Athletic 1A meeting against Franklin Charter (17-8) before the Patriots stormed back for a 7-5 win.
“The changes from that game to this was really just bringing the up-tempo,” said Raleigh Charter coach Steve Grosso. “The last two teams we’ve faced were new opponents and we had to adjust, and it’s really been beneficial for us to prepare for a match like this. … This time I made sure to embed in their minds the memory of last time, and I think they carried that with them the entire game.”
That Franklin regular-season win helped set up a three-way tie for first in the conference, which the teams – along with Woods Charter – broke by random draw.
Franklin Academy drew the top seed, followed by Woods Charter and then Raleigh Charter.
“That’s why we’re in the position we are right now,” Grosso said of Raleigh Charter’s No.7 playoff seed. “But no matter what the situation, where we play or our ranking or our opponent’s ranking, I know how strong we are and when we play together we can’t be stopped.”
Raleigh Charter also has dealt with a change at keeper.
Before the second-round game at James Kenan, sophomore John Reeves felt a pop in his knee during warmups.
Minutes before kickoff, Grosso looked to Griffin Miller, a junior midfielder who played keeper last season, as the next player in line with experience in goal.
Miller has “played just lights-out,” Grosso said. “He’s a phenomenal midfielder, and it’s hurtful to lose him on the field, but luckily we’ve got a deep bench that can come off and pick the rest of the guys up.”
Miller had a shutout going until the 79th minute Wednesday when Brian Gonzalez netted Franklin Academy’s goal.
The Phoenix got goals from Zane Kerr, Joey DiSerafino, Chris DiSerafino and two goals from Austin Glass.
Franklin Academy coach Michael Hunt was pleased with his team’s play Wednesday and throughout the season, noting the Patriots won eight straight games to close the regular season to tie for the conference title.
“Even though we lost 5-1, I was really happy with the style of soccer we played,” Hunt said. “I thought we played well enough to win, but when we had opportunities, we didn’t net them. … There were a couple of opportunities in the first half had we netted any of those, I think the complexion of the game would have changed.”
Raleigh Charter advances to face Woods Charter in the fourth round.