Such was the case for the Milford boys soccer team on Friday afternoon.
The Hawks needed less than two minutes to find the back of the net and then capitalized on a pair of second half chances to earn a 3-1 decision over Franklin in the season opener for both squads.
“I think that’s an incredible Franklin team, I just told [Franklin coach] Fran [Bositis] I haven’t seen a team close down space as quickly and efficiently as they do,” said Milford head coach Brian Edwards. “I was very happy with how we were able to move the ball at times against them. The score is great but we have a lot of work to do. We made some mistakes, I thought we were fortunate in how we scored. I think we showed flashes of what we can do but we’ll need to keep getting better each game.
“But anytime you can get a result against a good team like that, we’ll take it.”
Junior Leo Coelho turned some heads with a terrific individual run, beating multiple Panthers before depositing a perfect shot just under the bar to give Milford a lead in the second minute.
Franklin tied the game in the 17th but Milford scored a pair of goals in the final half hour of play to emerge with the victory.
After Coelho’s strike, the Hawks continued to pressure early and had a couple of chances at doubling the lead. In the 9th minute, senior Pedro Moura played Coelho in behind the defense but Franklin keeper Jack Rudolph (eight saves) came charging off his line and Coelho’s touch was just wide of the post.
It wouldn’t be the last time Rudolph would deny the Hawks on a good goal scoring chance.
The Panthers equalized in the 17th minute on one of their few chances in the contest. Senior Donny Tappin made a darting run down the left side, centering with a low cross. Junior Ben Moccia was able to slide and beat his defender, tapping the pass into the back of the net to make it 1-1.
Thanks to Rudolph, that was the scoreline heading into the half. In the 20th minute, Moura connected with Lucas Da Silva, who flicked it back but Moura’s low left-footed shot was swallowed up by Rudolph.
And then just minutes before halftime, Coelho hit one from distance that forced Rudolph into a diving save, getting his fingertips to the shot to force it to hit the post and out for a corner.
Milford regained the lead in the 52nd minute. Senior captain Nuno Mestre looped a throw into the box where Moura was taken down for a penalty kid. Moura hit one down the middle, and Rudolph was able to get the original stop but Moura was alert to the rebound and sprinted up and tapped it in to make it 2-1.
The Hawks had a couple of other chances to add to the lead but couldn’t solve Rudolph. In the 56th minute, Moura tracked down a ball over the top and had an open chance but was denied by Rudolph and the rebound rolled wide. In the 60th minute, Joao Pedro Da Silva connected with Coelho but his shot sizzled just over the bar. Senior Jordan Borges cracked one off the corner of the crossbar and post on a 30-yard free kick in the 64th minute.
The Hawks stifled any efforts from the Panthers to get forward over the final 10 minutes. Coelho moved back from forward to a center defensive midfield position and helped shore up the defense.
“Jack bailed us out, I thought he played great today,” Bositis said. “[Milford] is very crafty, quick, well-skilled…they are good. For us, it was similar to Xaverian where we just aren’t getting it done in the final third.”
Just before the final whistle, won a challenge in the attacking third, catching Rudolph off his line and he calmly dropped a shot into the far post to make it 3-1. Moura nearly made it 4-1 in the final seconds but Rudolph came off his line to deny a partial breakaway chance.
“You want to play a team like that because they test you,” Edwards said. “They’re so well-coached, they’re so athletic, they are good at every position. When you play Franklin, you know every guy is going to be a good athlete and each guy can defend well. So it was a good litmus test for us. We want to be able to move the ball on the ground quickly against big, strong physical teams.”