FRANKLIN, Mass. – In the semifinal win over Hingham, Franklin (18-1) struggled with uncharacteristic turnovers early in the game, but once the Panthers found the back of the net and grabbed the lead they established a rhythm on offense and never looked back.
In Sunday night’s Div. 1 South final against defending champ BC High, Franklin had another slow start but this time never looked comfortable on either end of the field. The Eagles clinched a fourth sectional title in the last five seasons, handing the Panthers a 14-9 loss in their first final appearance. It was Franklin’s only loss this season.
“It was a great year,” said Franklin coach Lou Verrochi. “We ran into a better team, at least tonight they were better. Hats off to them, they were bigger, faster, stronger, and in so many different areas they played great. Our kids battled.”
He added, “We didn’t handle the pressure real well. They pressed out on us and I don’t think we handled it as well as we could have, but I have nothing but good things to say about this group. They were unbelievable.”
Franklin’s Justin Alexander won the opening five face-offs of the game, but the Panthers struggled to connect passes together and the Eagles took advantage of turnovers to take an early lead. Will Emsing opened the scoring in transition and Emmett Martin doubled the lead with a shot on the run. Louis Timmins added a man-up goal to push the lead to 3-0 after eight minutes.
It took the Panthers almost nine minutes to create a good scoring chance, but once Luke Davis got his hands free on the run he was able to pick the bottom corner. About 30 seconds later, Davis got his second of the game, spinning his defender on the edge of the crease and squeezing a shot through the five-hole while falling.
A minute later Jack Maguire (11 saves) made a big stop, but Franklin turned it over in the clear and Vin Horton came right down and scored to make it 4-2. Another turnover handed the Eagles one more chance before the end of the quarter and this time it was Tim Rogers spinning back on his marker and firing into the corner.
The visitors had all the momentum and that carried over to the second quarter. Inside the first minute, Owen Porter became the sixth Eagle to find the back of the net with a lefty shot on the bounce.
Needing a spark, Franklin was able to again turn to Davis. The sophomore attacker received a pass from senior Matt Lazzaro and rifled a shot under the bar and just 40 seconds, after Joe Consigli was taken down driving towards the cage, Davis scooped the loose ball and finished from close range.
“It’s awesome to see Luke and Jayden, they have a ton of talent and the future is wicked bright for those two,” Lazzaro said about his fellow attackers. They’re just hard-working kids. Can’t wait to see what they do in the future.” Two years ago, Lazzaro was the young guy in an attacking three with Jake Davis and Ben Greco and he got a different perspective from being the veteran this season. He explained, “To see those two take charge and take command on the offensive end is cool.”
For the second time in the game, Franklin was able to hit with two quick goals and looked like it might be able to get back in it, but those were just flashes of the Panthers’ attacking ability and BC High quickly responded. Timmins got his second of the day, then Carter Rice and LSM James Carroll scored before halftime to build a 9-4 lead.
The Panthers really needed to get the first goal of the second half to try and start a rally, but it was Horton that found the bottom corner to extend the lead to six. Joe Consigli set up his brother Jayden for a good look from the edge of the crease only to be denied by Jamie Horton (12 saves).
Franklin was pressing and saw another turnover end a spell of possession, but Davis hustled back to force a turnover on the clear. He then turned and pushed forward into the attack, setting up Jayden Consigli for a goal.
Lazzaro was getting more space to get touches than he had in the previous two rounds, but the Eagles were making sure to throw multiple defenders at him every time he got the ball. With four minutes left in the third, he showed what makes him an All-American when he threw a fake that left the players on the field (and even some of the people of the sidelines) wondering where the ball ended up. Turns out it was still in his stick and he ripped a shot past Horton.
Rice answered with a spin and overhand finish and Horton came up with a big stop after Lazzaro sprung Ravin Chaudhury, who also took a big hit when he got to the edge of the crease. Franklin was able to get back within four, as Lazzaro went low-angle with a rip just a second before the horn.
“He’s been the man for four years now,” Verrochi said of Lazzaro. “He’s just an exceptional kid too. No one works harder than him, absolutely no one. You swear that the ball has eyes when he shoots sometimes from the angle that he shoots at and finishes. Everybody says, it was lucky, but it wasn’t, that was hours of preparation.”
Trailing 11-7, Franklin was still hanging around and still felt like it had a chance at winning a first South title, but the Panthers needed to be the next team on the board. Instead, BC High showed its championship pedigree by scoring three straight goals and opening the biggest lead of the game.
Lazzaro still had time for an addition to his lengthy highlight reel, as he got up from being knocked down and fired a shot from a seemingly impossible angle into the corner. Franklin added another in transition, Tim Walsh getting the ball up to Jayden Consigli for a close-range finish.
“The four captains did a great job in the offseason getting the kids to workouts and stuff and they were just committed,” Verrochi said. “They thought that this was going to be an exceptional year. They worked really hard.”
When asked about going further than any other Franklin team, Lazzaro, a Penn State-commit, replied, “It definitely shows how hard we worked as a team. It just shows off how hard we work and how great of a coaching staff we have and I’m just lucky to be part of a great program.”
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