WESTWOOD, Mass. – Last season, the Franklin boys’ lacrosse team reached its first ever sectional semifinal after upsetting perennial power Xaverian at Pisini Field. On Sunday, a much younger Franklin team faced the same opponent at the same stage of the tournament, but in a different venue and with a much different final result.
The Panthers started well, but once the Hawks clicked on offense Franklin had little answer for a team that has found its footing (and its health) in recent weeks and is once again among the contenders for a Div. 1 title.
Xaverian pulled away in the second half and knocked out the Panthers 18-11, despite five goals and three assists from senior attacker Austin Kent, who was recently selected as the Hockomock League MVP.
“They were flat out better than us,” said Franklin coach Lou Verrochi. “[Sophomore goalie] Connor [O’Rourke] saw a lot of rubber today and…they’re just really good. They’re unselfish, they find the one more, they did all the things we’ve been preaching all year long.”
Verrochi continued, “We caught them at a time in the season when they’re on a roll. Early on, I don’t think they had found their identity, but now they have and I think they’re going to be a really tough team to beat.”
Xaverian jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Peter Thorbahn (four goals) and Nick Shaw, but Kent brought the Panthers back level.
On his first goal, Kent threw a shot fake that sent his marker tumbling to the ground before he unleashed a laser into the bottom corner past Michael Toomey. Two minutes later, Kent spun back to his left side and found the corner with an overhand finish to the far post.
The Panthers took the lead with Kent picking out sophomore Eric Civetti for the first of his three goals, but Xaverian answered right back to tie it again. In the closing seconds of the quarter, Kent fired a pass from the ‘X’ to a cutting Kyle McEniry, who put Franklin ahead 4-3 after one.
The score stayed the same for the next seven minutes before Thorbahn was given all day to line up a rip into the top corner to tie it. That started a 5-1 run for the Hawks that put them ahead to stay. Civetti scored with an overhand finish that make it 6-5 but Xaverian scored twice in the final minute, both on assists by Drew Lee to freshman Sam Jean.
“They spent a lot of time trying to shut off Nick Shaw and Pete Thorbahn and it really opened up room in between once we figured out how to get the ball to the back side to open areas,” said Xaverian coach Tim Gardner.
“When you spend a lot of time on one guy, the back side attack opens up and that’s why Sam Jean had a heck of a half.”
McEniry scored his second of the game, again on an assist by Kent, to open the second half, but another 5-1 run by the Hawks broke it wide open. After a Sean Sperzel goal, O’Rourke (nine saves) came up with the play of the game when he went post to post to somehow deny Lee when he was wide open at the back post. Packie Watson scored on an assist by Chase Tanner, but Xaverian answered with four straight before Civetti ended the run with a goal while being knocked down.
Franklin forced a turnover but a poor clearance was picked off by the Hawks for a dagger goal right before the end of the third quarter that extended the lead to 14-8.
Early in the game, the Franklin defensive unit of Sean Lockhart, Patrick Morrison, Gabe Murphy and Matt Pleshaw was shutting down the Hawks, but as the game wore on the Hawks just had too many weapons and were too good at forcing the Panthers to slide out of position.
“I think we did a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities and pressing our advantage,” said Gardner. “Obviously, they had a great game going on with their attack, but we got a lot of opportunities from the midfield coming downhill.”
Meanwhile, on the offensive side Franklin was stagnating as the Hawks sat on Kent and Civetti and tried to force other players to beat them. Verrochi saw plenty of promise from his younger players to give him confidence that in the coming years that strategy will not be as effective.
“One of the things we need to do is look to get more players involved,” he explained. “Our midfielders are kind of young, three sophomores, a freshman, and two juniors, so next year if these guys improve then we’re going to be able to be more dangerous.”
The Panthers could never mount much of a comeback in the fourth quarter, although Kent did score a hat trick in his final period with the Panthers.
“We’re going to definitely miss him,” said Verrochi. “He’s the real deal. He rose to the occasion today. This was a big challenge; they’re a big strong, physical defense and he sort of shut them up and put them in their place.”
Franklin finished the season with a record of 14-6.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.