By Lance Reynolds, HockomockSports.com Contributor
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Charlie Rogers’ goal in the fifth minute of Monday night’s Kelley-Rex clash between Mansfield and Franklin sure was a welcome sight for the struggling Hornet offense.
In the previous two games against Sharon and King Philip, Mansfield was held off the scoreboard so the Hornets knew a fast start was going to be needed against the Panthers.
Senior captain Jared Miller launched a 20 yard shot off of the crossbar and Rogers was in the right place at the right time as he was able to recover the ball and put it into the back of the net giving Mansfield a quick 1-0 lead.
“We talk all the time about following up each other’s shots and that’s what (Rogers) did,” Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan said. “Jared took his shot, went off the crossbar, and Charlie was going right in and he was right there.”
Just two minutes into the second half, Miller recorded his second assist when he found senior Jack Reilly open from 15 yards out. Reilly gathered the pass and rifled the shot to the far post of the goal giving the Hornets comfort room with a 2-0 lead.
“He’s (Miller) just coming back from a knee injury and I wasn’t sure if he was going to play before the game but he ended up playing a heck of a game,” Sheridan said of Miller’s performance. “I think he was more determined than ever for this game. He was prepared for this game.”
Mansfield had several chances to increase their lead to three but the Franklin defense had other ideas. In the 56th minute, Jareme DiLorenzo broke away from the pesky Panther defense and found Sean Lanzillo. After a couple dribbles, Lanzillo fed Chris Elsner near the goal and Elsner took a chance at goal but Franklin goalie Henri Guilmette came up with the save. Two minutes later in the 58th minute, Max Gurnon’s free kick went off the bar forcing a corner. Elsner took the corner finding Miller but Guilmette dove to the right to stop the ball from going in.
From there, Franklin dominated possession time and gave Mansfield a scare. Cam LeBlanc pulled the Panthers within a goal in the 61st minute. LeBlanc came away with the ball after a scrum with the Hornet defense and shot it near the right post.
A minute later, Franklin had an opportunity to tie the score at two but Kevin Hall’s shot went just right of the net. In the 67th minute, Patrick Kapples found LeBlanc on a cross but the ball, again, went right of the net.
The last real scoring threat came in the 78th minute. After a Wesley Kozil throw-in resulted in a scrum in the box, Hatim Brahimi came away with the ball and took another chance at goal. This time, however, the ball was over the bar.
“I knew that they were going to come out in the second half. Tonight’s battle we were both tied for first place and whoever comes out of this game controls their own destiny for the rest of year with three games left. I knew they were going to come out and thank God that Jack got that one goal right off the bat to give us a two goal cushion,” Sheridan said. “They pressed us and I went with five midfielders after we scored that goal just to try to control the midfield and that’s what it was, it was an extra defender in the midfield.”
Leading the Mansfield defense was senior captain Chris Elsner. Whenever the Panthers got near striking distance, it seemed as though Elsner was always finding a way to break up the scrums and give the ball back to the Hornets with clearances. In addition to his tenacious defense, Elsner had several attacking throw-ins but the Hornets weren’t able to make the most of them.
“That’s what his job is – to control the midfield and help us move up when he can and his big throws have been key,” Sheridan said of Elsner. “We’ve scored a lot off of his throws but unfortunately we didn’t get any today. His defense has been rock solid and we can’t ask for anything more from him.”
The win clinches the Hornets a spot in the tournament as well as giving them the sole lead for first place in the Kelley-Rex.
“It feels great. We’ve finally got enough points, we qualified for the tournament and hopefully we can hold (Franklin) off for the league. I feel really good about the tournament,” Sheridan said. “I said that was our number one goal was to just qualify for the tournament. If we can get our offense going, I like our chances.”
Mansfield (8-3-2) hosts North Attleboro on Friday while Franklin (8-5) travels to Xaverian for a non-league game on Wednesday.
- Attleboro’s Murphy Signs With NY Giants As An UDFA - 04/25/2020
- Former Tiger Santos-Silva Declares For NBA Draft - 04/04/2020
- 2020 Hockomock League Boys Swimming All Stars - 03/20/2020