Kent Goal Clinches Fourth Straight Title for Franklin

Hockomock Franklin soccer Mansfield

Franklin celebrates its fourth straight Kelley-Rex division title after a 1-0 win over Mansfield on Friday. (Josh Perry/
By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Heading into Friday afternoon’s game with Mansfield, Franklin knew that it needed just a point to clinch a share of a fourth straight Kelley-Rex division title. But the Panthers were also facing an opponent that needed a point to keep its postseason hopes alive and were not about to give the result to the league leaders.
Despite intense pressure from the Hornets in the second half, Austin Kent’s first half goal would be enough for Franklin in a 1-0 win at Pisini Field. It was Franklin’s 11th clean sheet of the season and extended its unbeaten run to 14 games since the opening game loss to Oliver Ames.
“It’s not the prettiest but it’s a good win and we’ll take it,” said Franklin coach Fran Bositis.
Bositis admitted that entering the season he expected that the Panthers would have their hands full trying to catch Attleboro in the division, but that his experienced team (16 seniors) had always had its eyes on the league crown.
“It was certainly one of their goals and they’ve worked really hard to attain that goal and I think they certainly deserve it,” he said. “They’ve played great as a team and I think that’s the strength of our team is that we have so many guys that contribute.”
Franklin’s seniors have never finished in any position other than first. Senior defender Justin Bates explained that the team’s sustained success is about the willingness for the players to work hard.
He said, “Year after year we’ve put in hard work and given out best every single day…We just put in the dedication every single day. It really means a lot to us because it’s our last year. We’re ready to make our run.”
The Panthers certainly looked like the top team in the league during the first half, as they pressured Mansfield all over the pitch in an effort to give themselves an advantage that could win the title.
Junior Nick Parent had the first chance in the 15th minute but it was saved comfortably by Mansfield keeper Tim Moomey. Eight minutes later and the Panthers had the goal they were seeking. A ball over the top was flicked into the box by Jack Vail and junior forward Austin Kent was first to it. Kent took a touch before lifting the ball over a sliding Moomey and picking out the far corner.
“I actually haven’t been scoring as much lately,” said Kent. “When Jack Vail played me that through ball, I just tried to run off the defender and luckily it came right to my feet and I was able to put it away.”
The game could have been put away four minutes before the break when a scramble in the box led to the ball finding Scotty Donaldson just outside the six-yard-box. The senior settled it and picked his shot only to have Moomey make a great reaction save and palm it over the bar.
The Hornets turned things around after the break and started to control the flow of play. Although Mansfield only created a couple of clear chances, it was a much better performance in the second half and made it a nervous finish for the Panthers.
“We had a couple other chances in the first half that would have made life a lot easier,” said Bositis, who joked, “It’s a good thing I’m already bald because if not I’d be bald for sure. I thought Mansfield played well in the second half and really game out stronger than we did and controlled the play.”
The two best chances for Mansfield fell to senior midfielder Adam Smargon, but his first shot was straight at Panthers keeper James Frederick and the second went narrowly over.
Mansfield coach Steve Sheridan said, “I’ve been battling this all year. We’ll come out in the first half slow and come back in the second half, but you just can’t keep doing that. At some point it needs to stick that they can’t keep doing that.”
He continued, “We just can’t find someone that really wants to stick the ball in the back of the net…We’re in every game and if I can get them to play for 80 minutes then maybe the tides will go in our favor.”
The Franklin defense has been the team’s strength all season and was able to hold on in the second half to keep the Hornets out. Bates deflected the credit away from just the back line and said that it was a total team effort to get the clean sheet.
He said, “Coach says at the beginning of the game every day hard work that is what the key is on defense. Defense is an entire team thing; it’s not just the back four. It’s the entire team working their butts off.”
Franklin (10-1-4) will next travel to Aleixo Stadium to take on Taunton on Tuesday afternoon. Mansfield (3-7-5) will finish with two out of its last three on the road starting on Tuesday at North Attleboro.
Josh Perry can be contacted at and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
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