Instead, the fireworks came early.
After leaving it late in their win over Mansfield to finish last week, the Warriors came out firing in their first matchup with Franklin. KP scored twice in the opening quarter and once each in the second and third quarters to earn a 4-1 decision on the road over the Panthers.
“It’s a credit to how creative our midfield has been and how hard our wings are working,” said second-year King Philip head coach Mike O’Neill. “They’re all working really hard. This team is very unselfish. We had assists from an outside back, we had assists from wings, assists from midfielders so I’m just really pleased with how they are sharing the ball.”
Senior Evan McEvoy bagged a brace in the win, finding the back of the net just before halftime and shortly after the second half began. Ajae Olsen opened the scoring less than five minutes into the contest and Cole Breen doubled the visitors’ advantage before 15 minutes had expired.
The Warriors went without a goal in 80 minutes in their season opener against Mansfield last week, and then finally broke through in the 77th minute in the second meeting. This time out, King Philip wasted little time finding the back of the net.
Franklin opened the game with the early pressure as junior Terry O’Neill tested KP keeper Aidan Lindmark with a left-footed go from just outside the box in the first minute. But the Panthers didn’t sustain the pressure and the Warriors took advantage of failed clearance.
Outside back Anthony Zappala was rewarded for his venture into the attacking third, combining with senior Alex Leon to gain possession on the left side after Franklin was unable to play out of the back. Zappala split a pair of defenders with a service to the far post and Olsen found himself all alone in behind and finished off a bouncing cross for a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute.
King Philip did sustain their offensive pressure and nearly had a second just three minutes later. Leon played McEvoy on a short indirect kick on the left side, and McEvoy used a nice fake to earn some space before rifling a curling shot on frame that forced Franklin keeper Luc Boudreau to make an acrobatic one-handed save over the bar.
Franklin forayed back into the attacking third but King Philip took possession back and broke out on the counter. Leon used his speed to carry out of the back before sliding a low through ball in behind the defense. Junior Sean McCarthy timed his run perfectly, latching onto the pass entering the area. McCarthy alertly centered the ball to find senior Cole Breen for a one-touch finish from six yards out to make it 2-0 in the 12th minute.
“I think one thing that really worked for us that doesn’t get enough credit is how hard the front three and the midfielders work to make those runs,” O’Neill said. “A lot of the time they go unrewarded but you have to make them anyway and trust your teammates to find you. And we were able to find them on a couple of goals.”
The Panthers’ best chance of the opening quarter came in the 15th minute when junior Aidan Griffith played senior Ben Moccia into space in the area but his tight-angle bid at the near post was just wide.
After a spirited pep talk from head coach Fran Bositis, who is in his 50th consecutive year at the helm of the program, the Panthers came out with a little more pep in their step to start the second quarter. And that resulted in quick success.
Junior Nelson Martinez took a touch into space before unleashing a low shot from outside the area. Moccia made a run across the box and redirected the low shot leaving no chance for Lindmark, cutting the deficit to 2-1 in the 22nd minute.
Shortly before the halftime break, King Philip answered back to restore its two-goal advantage. Junior Stephen Griffin played a diagonal ball near the penalty spot and McEvoy buried his bid for a 3-1 lead in the 35th minute.
“I think that was the turning point in the game,” O’Neill said. “You know there’s the old joke about a two-goal lead being the worst lead in soccer but when you get a second two-goal lead, it makes that mountain a lot harder to climb for the other team. And we talked at halftime, it was really important to keep playing the way we were playing and to stay organized. Coach Fran’s team is always going to come out and play hard and give a tremendous effort, they have some excellent players over there so we had to keep organized.”
King Philip tacked on another insurance goal late in the third quarter. Tadhg Keller linked up with Olsen, who connected with McEvoy in the area to extend the advantage to 4-1 in the 55th minute.
Franklin pushed late but couldn’t breakthrough. Martinez found Charlie Amante in some space but the senior didn’t get a clean shot off and Lindmark covered. Minutes later, Lindmark was quick off his line to deny Amante a chance at a shot and on the next play. Keller came up with a big challenge to prevent another bid on goal.
“It’s a great comfort for a coach to have a goalie like Aidan Lindmark back there,” O’Neill said. “Not only is he a terrifically polished shot-stopper but tactically he’s very, very aware and his judgment is terrific. In a year like this now where you can’t head the ball, your goalie better be the boss of the box and he was tonight.”
King Philip boys soccer (2-1) will host Franklin (0-3) in a rematch on Friday.