Hornets Beat Franklin, Seize Control of Kelley-Rex

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.

Kent Helps Panthers Roar Past Foxboro

Austin Kent Kevin Hall
Austin Kent (2) scored a penalty and assisted on Kevin Hall’s (6) goal, as the Panthers defeated Foxboro 2-0 on Friday afternoon. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Click HERE for photo gallery from the game.

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

FOXBORO, Mass. – Franklin scored with the last touch of the first half and again just three minutes after the break to get its first win of the season. The Panthers defeated Foxboro 2-0 at Sam Berns Community Field in a battle of last year’s league champions.

“I know Foxboro is shorthanded, missing two quality players, but they’re still a really good team, so it was a big win for us,” said Franklin coach Fran Bositis, referencing the absent duo of midfielder Joe Morrison and defender Jeff Melo, who will be out for the season after an off-field injury.

Even without Morrison patrolling the center of the pitch, Foxboro started the game on the attack, mostly through the left-side and senior attacker Devante Teixeira, who was fresh off a four-goal game against Attleboro in Foxboro’s season-opening win.

Teixeira started brightly forcing Franklin keeper Henri Guilmette into a save at his near post after beating the right back with pace. The resulting corner was nearly headed in for an own goal but slipped just wide. A minute later, Teixeira drew a foul in a dangerous position, but was unable to direct Anthony Barreira’s free kick on target from close-range.

“He is…he’s just really dangerous and so is [Barreira],” said Bositis. “They’re just really tough an we’re fortunate to keep them off the scoresheet today.”

After those early chances, Teixeira faded with the combination of right backs Matt Piorier and Wesley Kozil keeping him mostly quiet with help from covering center backs Pat Kapples and Dan Geraci.

Bositis explained, “We just told the kids to keep him in front of you and don’t dive in because he’s so quick that if you go for the ball and he gets by you…forget it. We just tried to contain and delay and I thought they did a pretty good job.”

While the Panthers, defense kept the Foxboro attack quiet, the Panthers midfielders started to push the Warriors back. Substitute Farley Asmath came in and created the first big chance with a cross from the left that just missed the head of Cam LeBlanc.

Senior Austin Kent, the lone returning starter back from last season, almost opened the scoring with a shot from outside the box that slipped wide of the post and then his corner nearly found Nick Parent but Foxboro keeper Clay Leopold cut it out.

With the clock stopped at 2:00, Kent again found space in behind the fullback, this time on the right side, and he sent in a perfect cross that was met Kevin Hall on the edge of the six-yard-box. Immediately after the ball found the back of the net, the officials signaled for halftime.

Foxboro coach, and former New England Revolution player, Joe Franchino made a few adjustments at halftime to try and alter the pattern of play, including moving Barreira back into the midfield and moving Sean Millhollan up top as the striker. Unfortunately, those change had barely been put in place before Franklin had double the lead.

Left back Shawn McNamara attempted to stop a cross coming in from the left but in the process the ball ricocheted off his arm, giving Franklin a chance from the spot. Kent stepped up and made no mistake, sending Leopold the wrong way and making it 2-0.

“It is what it is but you’ve got to grind it out,” said Franchino about the difficulty of giving up goals on either side of halftime.

“I told the guys that they got to look at themselves in the mirror and see if you did everything you possibly could today and my gut feeling is that the guys had an off day.”

Bositis admitted that the second goal eased the players’ nerves and added confidence tin a bounce back performance from the season opening loss to Oliver Ames.

He said, “You’ve got a little bit of leeway. You can play with a little more comfort; you feel like there’s a little more margin for error.”

In the 61st minute, Piorier cleared a header off the post and started a Franklin counter that raced through LeBlanc to Hatim Brahimi and just past the toe of Hall at the far post. Three minutes later, Hall had a another chance from a LeBlanc cut back but blazed his shot over the bar.

Teixeira finally got back into the game in the 69th minute but his right-footed shot after a good run was right at Guilmette, who was then forced to punch away a long free kick by Barreira. Millhollan almost cut the lead in half after good buildup play by Teixeira and Barreira, but his shot from inside the box was also saved by Guilmette.

As the clock wound down, Foxboro was running out of ideas on how to get back into it and afterwards Franchino admitted that Franklin was the deserved winner.

“We just got outplayed today, they just beat us to every ball,” he said. “It’s a reality check. The quality of players that we have is there but if we don’t put in the work then we’re going to get beat.”

Franklin lost 16 players from last year’s Kelley-Rex Division champions and he saw a lot of growth from his relatively new roster.

“I thought we won a lot of 50-50 balls today,” said Bositis. “Nick Parent kind of set the tone on that and everyone else just kind of joined in. We talked about it yesterday and once their confidence started to build, they started to play some good soccer.

Franklin will look to keep momentum when it hosts Sharon on Wednesday. Foxboro may welcome Joe Morrison back for its next game at Taunton on Tuesday.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Boys Soccer: 2015 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

By HockomockSports.com Staff

Attleboro

2014 Record: 12-6-3
2014 Finish: Reached MIAA D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Peter Pereira
The Bombardiers had a great 2014 regular season and then had an even better run in the playoffs, pulling off an upset of second-seeded New Bedford.
This year, the Bombardiers will be looking to get back to the postseason but there will be a challenge after graduating a group of talented, experienced players in the Class of 2015. The good news is that coach Peter Pereira has a good group of players this season. Zach Rodrigues, a player that has a ton of varsity experience, is a good starting spot for a team that will likely be right in the thick of the wide-open Kelley-Rex title race.
Junior Harry Lancaster is also back for his third year on varsity while Junior Coca will be another talented player in the middle of the field for Attleboro. Ahijah Joseph emerged as a credible player during his sophomore year and is back for what could be a breakout junior season.

Franklin

2014 Record: 13-2-5
2014 Finish: Reached MIAA D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Fran Bositis
For the past four seasons, the Panthers have claimed the Kelley-Rex division title. This year, it could be more of an uphill battle in order to claim a fifth straight.
The Panthers graduated 16 seniors and a good solid chunk of their starting lineup so a couple of strong returning players will be relied on heavily for coach Fran Bositis. Austin Kent is the only starter back and 2015 will be his third year on varsity. Hatim Brahimi had a big sophomore season last year and his junior campaign could be a big one for him.
“The focus has been on just trying to find the right mix of players right now,” Bositis said. “I know that the kids have worked really hard, and are in real good shape physically but we’ve got a ways to go before we call ourselves a good soccer team.”
Senior Nick Parent will see his role increase this year while Danny Geraci and Pat Kapples are two players who have some experience in the back. Henri Guilmette will step in as the new goalie and could have a breakout 2015.

King Philip

2014 Record: 9-6-4
2014 Finish: Reached MIAA D1 South First Round
Coach: Nick Gale
The Warriors were a tough team to beat last year and that should continue to be the case in 2015. Nick Gale steps in as the new head coach for the program as the Warriors will be a serious content to claim their first division title since 2010.
“In order to compete in a strong Hock league, we’re going to have to play intelligent, team and detail-oriented soccer and so far, this group has welcomed every challenge,” first-year head coach Nick Gale said. “These guys want to learn and compete in everything we do and I feel for these reasons, we will be successful this year.”
UMass Lowell-commit Joe Kellett has been one of the top players in the league for the past two years and with 2015 being his senior season, it would be the best one yet. The 2013 Underclassman of the Year has had to overcome some injuries but every year continues to have a serious impact on games. Kellett will be complemented by senior Clay Geuss in the midfield while sophomores Tyler Mann, Mike Rowe and Larsen Keys could play key roles. Defensively, the Warriors have some experience back with Ethan Edney, Cam Mullins, Ryan Coulter and Colby Koch. The Warriors are expecting to use a mix of youth and experience to take a run at the division title.

Mansfield

2014 Record: 3-8-7
2014 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Steve Sheridan
Head coach Steve Sheridan is hoping there is some truth to the saying ‘defense wins championships.’ The Hornets were in a tough spot last year when they only had one starter back but with six back this season, Mansfield will have a lot more experience heading into 2015.
“My three captains have been very, very good throughout the offseason getting kids together playing,” Sheridan said, crediting seniors Brad Eames, Jared Miller and Chris Elsner for their work throughout the winter, spring and summer. “They noticed the need to be bigger and stronger and I credit their work in the offseason.”
Eames will patrol the middle of the pitch with the Hornets alongside junior James Chotkowski. Jared Miller will get an opportunity up top to try and provide a scoring punch while Sheridan expects big things from Michael Kirejczyk in goal.
However, the Hornets biggest strength will be the defense. Elsner is back in the middle alongside junior Max Gurnon. Sophomore Nick Hyland is back on the outside with some experience under his belt while the other spot is still being highly contested.

North Attleboro

2014 Record: 1-15-2
2014 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Geoff Burgess
Similar to Mansfield, the Rocketeers will be relying on their defense this season. With both center backs returning and with last year’s goalie back again, North Attleboro will be looking to make it tough for opponents to score. Matt Coscarella and Gareth King are back in the middle of the defense while Rob Heaney will be back in net.
“I think we are going to be tough to score on,” head coach Geoff Burges said. “[We have] lots of speed and experience there.”
The key going forward for the Rocketeers will be fitting new faces into the offense. Gabe Pinhancos will take on a big role in the center of the midfield while junior Leo Charlebois and senior Yezan Ismail will be relied on up top to find the back of the net.

Taunton

2014 Record: 3-12-2
2014 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Dave Purpura
The Tigers will be looking to get back to the playoffs after missing out this past season. With a good combination of experienced players and new talent, head coach Dave Purpura is hopeful for a bounce back 2015 campaign.
The combination of youth and experienced players could be a good formula with the division race wide open. Seniors Derek Pereira, Austin Botelho and Torin Mizuno are all back with a lot of varsity experience while younger players like sophomores Riccardo Da Fonseca, Daeshawn Duffy, Liam Crowley and freshman Hasan Farahat all could play vital roles this season.
“We are more skilled at more positions this season than last,” head coach Dave Purpura said.”We will need guys to step up and score goals from several positions to make up for a couple of key losses to graduation.”
Along with Mizuno and Da Fonseca in the back, seniors Luke Figueira and Matt Holt will be prominent figures. Sophomore goalie Marc DeSousa is back after earned the starting role midway through his rookie campaign.
“We are definitely a younger, deeper team than last year and I think the attitude and focus of the team is different,” Purpura said. “If we continue to improve as a group we could surprise some teams as we are a program trending in the right direction.”