TAUNTON, Mass, – Holding a two-goal lead in the second half on Tuesday afternoon’s contest on the road at Taunton, the Franklin boys soccer team came close to padding its lead and securing two points.
But the Panthers were unable to find the back of the net again, leaving the door open for the hosts.
The Taunton boys soccer team took full advantage, scoring a pair of goals in the final 20 minutes of play to steal a point in a 2-2 draw.
“This is a great tie for us,” said Taunton coach Taylor Whitters. “We’ve been struggling a little bit with some finishing and hustling, and in the second half they showed what they are capable of, and they are capable of a lot. They were great teammates today and they worked hard, and going forward that’s what we need to keep doing.”
Franklin scored just under five minutes into the game and added a second tally in the final minute of the first half to take a comfortable 2-0 advantage into the halftime break. The Panthers carried some of that momentum into the second half but couldn’t find the final touch to add a third goal in the second half.
“This was a very bad tie for us as far as I’m concerned, we should have put them away,” said Franklin head coach Fran Bositis. “I thought we had some chances to put them away and didn’t take them. Their goalie played recklessly but he played well. But there’s no way this team should be giving up two goals in a half, let alone the last 15 minutes of the game.”
The Panthers found success playing through balls behind the Tigers’ defense throughout the first half, including junior Ethan Cain played Donny Tappin in alone in the 5th minute, and the senior striker calmly finished his chance to put the visitors up 1-0.
In the second half, Taunton goalie Nolan Melo made tough for Franklin to connect on those chances. Melo was quick off his line and often came out to clear the ball played through.
“He reads the game incredibly well,” Whitters said of Melo. “He’s willing to take risks, and sometimes it’s a big risk, but he anticipates very well. And that is a huge help when teams are trying to play those through balls or the ball over the top.”
Franklin did have its chances though, as Lucas Moura beat a defender one-on-one but his service through the six-yard box just missed Tappin. Six minutes later, Tyler Powderly looked to have given the Panthers some breathing room when he got a piece of a cross from Tappin, but Melo grabbed the ball before it could completely cross the line.
“That’s the type of team that all they need is a chance,” Bositis said. “If we had scored that third goal, I think that would have been it. But allowing them to get the next goal, even with only 15 minutes left, that gave them life. And we just weren’t playing smart at that point anyway.”
Moura had Franklin’s best chance of the half in the 62nd minute, dribbling his way past a defender to get an open shot but Melo made the point-blank save to keep the deficit at 2-0.
That saved proved even bigger as Taunton got on the board just five minutes later. After a long clearance, the Tigers developed a quick 2-on-1 up the middle and junior Donovan Hibbert played senior Alec Nunes onto his right foot, and the striker buried a low shot into the bottom corner of the goal to make it 2-1.
“I think we were building towards it in the second half,” Whitters said. “We were using some high pressure, and once they saw that something was coming from their hustle and their effort, they started to believe, and they started to see some results from it.”
Taunton continued to press, and a free kick service fell into the area and bounced around. The referee at midfield called a handful on the Panthers, awarding the hosts with a penalty kick. Senior Colton Madeira buried the chance from the spot to make it 2-2 in the 75th minute.
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Franklin had the majority of chances in the opening half. Tappin flashed a header at the near post off a service from Moura in the 23rd minute but Melo made the stop. Jeff Yelle and Charlie Amante nearly connected in the 28th minute but Melo was quick off his line.
Taunton’s best chance of the first half came when Nunes won a challenge and fired a shot from 25 yards out but Franklin keeper Jack Rudolph made the save on the bounce.
The Panthers made it 2-0 just before the halftime whistle when Ben Moccia played a low service and Tappin made a terrific run to the near post and simply one-timed the cross into the back of the net to make it 2-0.