By HockomockSports.com Staff
Franklin junior Shaw Downing has been selected as the HockomockSports.com Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, for Oct. 3 through Oct. 9. Downing is the fifth player chosen as Player of the Week for the 2021-22 school year.
Downing has been a major factor in Franklin’s perfect start to the season and its league-leading offense. With 10 goals and five assists, include two goals and an assist last week, Downing is second on the Panthers in scoring and sixth in the Hockomock. Her two goals on Friday afternoon were the difference as Franklin beat rival King Philip to move two games up in the league standings.
“Shaw is a highly skilled player who does a great job with deflections and redirecting the ball into the net,” said Franklin head coach Michelle Hess.
Last Tuesday, Downing got a second half assist during Franklin’s big win over Stoughton. Three days later, in a league title showdown with the Warriors, Downing needed only five minutes to find space in the circle and fire a shot through legs and into the back of the net. With two minutes left in the quarter, Downing struck again, tipping home a pass from the top of the circle by classmate Kaitlyn Carney. Although that was the end of the scoring, Downing, Carney, and freshman Raena Crandall posed a consistent threat to the KP defense, helping Franklin run its unbeaten streak to 40 league games.
The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – Coming into the season, Franklin had several new faces to incorporate into the lineup, a few key players who had graduated, and a group of experienced, talented teams to contend with in its quest for a third straight league title. The Panthers haven’t missed a beat.
Shaw Downing scored a pair of first quarter goals on Friday afternoon and Franklin powered to a 2-0 victory over title rival King Philip at Macktaz Field. The win keeps the Panthers perfect on the season, moves them two games up in the loss column on the Warriors, and extends their remarkable unbeaten run in league play to 40 games.
“That was our plan to try and score fast, score early, and see how the rest of the game goes,” said Franklin coach Michelle Hess. “I’m glad that they were able to get those two quick ones because they do a good job of frustrating us and getting in our heads a little bit.”
Franklin came into the game with 64 goals on the season, 23 more than anyone else in the league, and had only allowed three. KP definitely wanted to keep the game close early and try to frustrate the Panthers. Unfortunately for the Warriors, that game plan only lasted five minutes.
The visitors stormed out of the gates. In the fifth minute, Downing got free inside the circle and shot on the turn to slip it through a crowd in front for a quick 1-0 lead. Two minutes later, the lead was almost doubled but the league’s leading scorer Kaitlyn Carney couldn’t get full purchase on a backhand shot from close range.
With two minutes left in a first quarter that was completely controlled by Franklin, Downing struck again. Off the fourth corner of the quarter, Carney fired a shot from the top of the circle to the post and Downing’s deft flick took it past KP goalie Haley Bright.
Bright (10 saves) would be called into action early in the second when Carney found space right in front but was denied by a kick save and then two minutes later when Carney wound up and took a shot from distance that needed blocking.
KP had been struggling to get into the attacking half of the field. Sydney O’Shea was a consistent outlet on the right side, but Franklin defender Kate O’Rourke kept a close watch on her and didn’t allow the Warriors to get into their transition game. Sweeper Kendall Jones was also on hand to mop up when KP did get the ball forward.
Hess said, “We knew they were fast and I know my fullbacks are quick, so I just really had to tell them make sure you don’t over-commit because they’re quick and if they get by you we need to have people back there covering for you if you decide to step up. We had a game plan and I think we executed it well.”
Franklin came close to adding a third when freshmen Haley Wernig and Raena Crandall combined for a shot, but Bright was out aggressively and forced it wide. The combo of Crandall, Downing, and Carney was proving tough for the KP defense to handle and another good move led to a drop pass for Carney that forced another kick save from Bright.
“She played great,” KP coach Lisa Cropper said of Bright. “She was a little tentative in the first quarter but she got over it, almost like she could relax after they got two. But, you know, they’re great, they’re scoring a ton of goals, so keeping them to two is kind of a moral victory.”
KP had two corners in the game, both within seconds of each other in the second quarter, and the Warriors nearly scored on both of them. Kelly Holmes went with an aerial that was blocked off the line and on the second attempt she lifted it over everyone but was unable to beat the crossbar.
The pattern continued into the second half, with Franklin controlling possession and keeping the Warriors largely pinned back, but with KP able to stymie the Panthers’ attempts to put the game away. Kiera Kotwicki teed up Carney for a backhand shot that Bright stopped and then the KP goalie denied Carney on a shot from the right and Downing following up on the rebound.
“We were tinkering with a different formation and we went with it from second quarter on and it worked,” Cropper explained. “We shut them out for three quarters, but we gave them two early ones. We didn’t take advantage of our chances. We had some good pressure points but we just couldn’t find it.”
Freshman Emily Carney tried an aerial on a fourth quarter corner but KP defender Molly Piller was able to drop back and use her reach to knock it down before it crossed the line. Another Franklin corner led to a scramble in the circle and Lily Brown was able to get back on the line to block and clear another chance for the Panthers.
“I think the fourth quarter for us was probably the best,” Hess said. “They didn’t really get it over the 50 and we were pretty much down here the whole time. I told them, play your game, don’t let them frazzle you.”
Franklin (10-0-0) will take on state power Walpole in a showdown of unbeaten teams on Monday before traveling to Sharon two days later. King Philip (9-3-0) will try to get back on track with a trip to North Attleboro, hoping that someone can beat Franklin before the two teams meet again the regular season finale.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Canton lost its opening two games of the season and gave up nine goals in the process. The Bulldogs were incorporating a lot of new faces in the defense and there was a learning curve. It is a curve that the team seems to have left in the rearview mirror.
With a 2-0 shutout of Mansfield on Tuesday night at Alumni Field, Canton has won its last seven games and moved into first place in the Davenport division. Defense has been a major factor in that win streak, as the Bulldogs have allowed only one goal in those seven wins and are now second in the league in goals allowed.
“Our defense is really stepping up,” said Canton coach Chrissy O’Connor. “We definitely started out slow. That was definitely one of the areas that we were trying to fill in some lost spots from last year. The first two games, there were some growing pains there, but they’re really starting to gel together.”
Things didn’t start off comfortably for Canton on Tuesday. Mansfield has speed on the wings and the Hornets tried to take advantage of that in the transition game. Midway through the first quarter, Celia Puleo got free down the left and knocked a cross into the circle. Maddie Brown did well to bring the head-high pass down and get a shot on target, but Canton goalie Carolyn Durand was able to make a double save to keep it scoreless.
It was the best scoring chance of the game for the Hornets, who forced Durand into only one more save for the rest of the night.
Mansfield coach Theresa Nyhan said, “We lost it in the midfield, a combination of Canton making plays, poor decision-making on our part, and just not having enough people up on attack.”
Canton started to tilt the field, putting constant pressure on the Mansfield defense. Despite all the possession in the attacking half, Mansfield goalie Lily Danehy was largely untroubled. Ellie Bohane tried to create an opening 10 minutes into the game, but Sarah Cunningham’s shot on the turn went just wide.
It took 13 minutes for the Bulldogs to put a shot on target. A 10-yard shot through bodies off the stick of Maggie McCready was kicked aside by Danehy.
The second quarter was more of the same, Canton attacking in numbers and Mansfield repelling those attacks without allowing anything near the goal. After nine minutes, Bohane had a look that Danehy was equal to and, in the final minute of the half, Erin Lane’s goal-bound shot was blocked by Audrey Murphy before Danehy cleared the rebound.
“A lot of receiving issues, a lot of mistakes on our own that we need to clean up offensively,” said O’Connor about the lack of clear chances in the first half. “We do have a lot of different scorers, which is a positive, but we need to clean up some of the errors.”
While Canton was struggling at times to connect in the circle, a lot of the credit goes to Mansfield defender Caitlin Dumouchel, who seemed to always be in the right place to break up attacks and try to spring the Hornets down the other end.
“She’s a game changer for us,” Nyhan said of Dumouchel. “She’s a great last line of defense and an awesome first line of attack. It’s not just a whack, she carries out and she carries out with speed.”
After lacking the final touch in the first half hour, Canton wasted no time finding the opener after the break. Just two minutes into the third quarter, the Bulldogs got the game’s first corner and converted it into the game’s first goal. Cunningham played it out to Payton McDonough at the top of the circle. A touch put the ball onto Lane’s stick and she lifted a shot through traffic that found the back of the net.
Mansfield’s fast start on the break had faded and the Hornets were struggling to get anything going in the offensive end of the field. Dumouchel blocked an attempted shot off a corner and sent the outlet pass to Brown in the middle of the field, but her attempt to race forward was quickly stopped by the stick of Laura Valkanas.
Canton had a good chance to double its lead 11 minutes into the second half, with Bohane firing a pass in front to Audrey Koen, but Danehy came through with a huge double save. Two minutes later, off another corner, the Bulldogs got their second. This time McDonough played a pass to Cunningham at the near post. The first tip was stopped but got caught under Danehy’s feet and Cunningham was able to poke it across the line.
“Which is one of the things we’ve been struggling with is our corners, just getting off a shot and things we’ve been working on,” said O’Connor. “So, I was glad to see the girls actually capitalize on corners.”
The fourth quarter was largely a stalemate, as Canton continued to hold possession but was wiling to play field position and hold onto its lead. Mansfield did try to make one late push to get back into the game, winning its only corner with six minutes to play only to move too early and wipe away the opportunity.
“It’s kind of the way things have been going for us,” Nyhan explained. “We have three returning varsity players. We’re young and we’re struggling scoring. So, when they don’t score early I think they feel disappointed and then they just put so much pressure on themselves. They need to relax and play.”
O’Connor knows there is still a long way to go in the season and a lot of potential twists in the division’s title race, but she is thrilled with the progress her team is making. “Definitely gelling a little bit more,” she said. “The girls really stepped up and every game there’s somebody different that’s improving. They’re really starting to come into their own.”