By Charles Pulliam
MURFREESBORO – After a couple early misses – including banging a shot off the crossbar – the Franklin boys soccer team struck in a hurry and often against future region foe Columbia Central.
Landon Robbins scored twice and Benji Wright added another goal as the Admirals scored three late tallies in less than seven minutes Tuesday and advanced to the Class AAA state semifinals with a 3-0 win over the Lions at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
Robbins netted the breakthrough goal on a lofted ball from Bradley Whelan in the 63rd for Franklin. His second tally came when A.J. Elliot hustled down a long ball and crossed to Robbins, who leaped with a defender in front of the goal and back-heeled the ball into the back of the net. The spectacular shot made it 2-0 in the 69th and ignited the Admirals faithful.
“Our chemistry for a while now has been very good,” Robbins said of being able to find the pass from Elliot. “I came over to that left side and he just knew I was there.
“We usually mess around after training for about 30 minutes practicing tricks.”
“Sometimes in a game, they become available,” Elliot added. “That was a good one.”
Less than a minute later, Franklin scored the final goal when Wright broke loose up the middle and beat two defenders before placing a low shot perfectly to make it 3-0.
“The floodgates opened,” Franklin coach Mike Burgoyne said. “The boys really started well, we even hit the post a couple times, but the longer the game went 0-0 you felt the anxiety build.
“Columbia Central is a great team. They came out well-organized and their keeper made a couple great saves, but when that first one went through, our confidence lifted and the boys came through.”
Franklin managed nine shots on goal, compared to just one for the Lions. Columbia Central coach Greg Szydlowski said he was happy with how his boys managed to stay even with Franklin early. The coach had to go to his bench with about 17 minutes to play when left back Brandon Carrascoza and right back John Dunn were forced to exit in the more than 90-degree heat.
That change triggered an opening Franklin took advantage of.
“We’re just not that deep, and they attacked that switch right away and put it in,” Szydlowski said after completing an 18-4-1 campaign. “I’m really proud of these guys though because they really battled. That’s soccer sometimes though. It’s a hot day and you have to make some changes and they capitalized.”
“We will remember this one,” the coach added. “We get to see them in the same region (6-AAA) next year and we get some of our top guys back. We’ll be back.”
Victor Ramirez, who closed the season with a team-high 26 goals for the Lions, managed two shots, but was held in check for most of the match. Keeper Dane Holley closed with six saves for Columbia Central.
“They’re a tough team,” Elliot said. “I think scoring three goals late like that really helps us. It’s a confidence booster going into (Wednesday) and now we just have to rest up and go get another one.”
Aiden Moss earned the shutout in goal for Franklin.
The Admirals, who improved to 13-3 overall, will face Bearden in the semifinals. Bearden (19-3-1) stretched their match into the evening before outlasting Collierville (18-2-3) with a 1-0 win, taking the match in penalty kicks 5-4.
Houston (14-2-4) takes on Oakland (19-0-3) in the other semifinal. Both start at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.