Franklin Academy’s boys’ soccer team gained revenge and a state final berth wrapped in one sweet package.
The Patriots defeated two-time defending state champion Wallace-Rose Hill 1-0 Tuesday in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A East Regional final.
The Wake Forest charter school advanced to the state final Saturday at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer Field at the expense of the team that eliminated it last year in the third round.
“Revenge was a big factor,” said Franklin senior Nick Hughes, who scored the lone goal 10 minutes into the first half, his 51st of the year.
Franklin (22-1-2) was the top seed against the No. 2-seeded Bulldogs (20-6-1). A large crowd of about 400 turned out, and students ran onto the field to celebrate with the players.
“I’ve never seen a crowd this big here,” said Hughes once the players emerged from being engulfed by fans.
The 6-foot-4 Hughes used his unique combination of body control and advanced ball skills. His back was to the goal about 18 yards in front of the goal when he felt a body pressuring from behind. He spun with his back shielding his defender, fired and scored.
“It was important we get a lead on them,” Hughes said. “We knew they weren’t used to playing while down. We wanted to see how they would react to it.”
The Bulldogs reacted fine as they pressured the Patriots the rest of the night, but Franklin’s defense also responded.
“Their defense is outstanding,” Wallace-Rose Hill coach Michael Graybeal said. “We had some shots we should have finished, but this was a great match and a great field for soccer.”
Franklin goalie BenVoorhis recorded eight saves and Wallace-Rose Hill’s goalie Jeryri Cano 13.
The dramatic stop that saved overtime, though, was by senior Malcolm Nicol with 10:30 to play. Voorhis made a diving save in front the goal’s left post, but the ball floated off his hands into the air waist high across to the goal’s right side. It might have rolled in or been tapped in, but Nicol got to the ball first and cleared with a high kick.
“I almost died on the inside,” said Nicol, placing his hand on his heart. “I’ve missed those balls before. I knew I had to get it. Those balls are easy to miss; they’re spinning and hard to gauge.”
He got it and the Patriots have moved on to the state final.