No disrespect intended to the teams yet to play against Franklin or Plainfield next week, but the Mid-State Conference boys soccer title was, for all realistic purposes, decided Thursday evening.
It took the Grizzly Cubs a little bit longer than they might have liked to secure the crown, but it’s theirs — after a pair of goals in the final three and a half minutes of the second overtime period locked up a 3-1 triumph.
Garrett Snyder put in the decisive score, heading home a cross from Owen Atkison with 3:30 on the clock in the second extra frame. Atkison added an insurance tally on a direct kick with 41.6 seconds remaining.
With the win, Franklin (8-1-2, 5-0) clinched at least a share of first place in the Mid-State. Beating Greenwood next week would give the Grizzly Cubs the championship outright.
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“It feels really good knowing, going into the next game, that you’re controlling your destiny,” Atkison said.
Such an outcome was anything but certain in the early going, as Plainfield (7-5, 3-1) controlled play from the outset. The Quakers eventually took a 1-0 lead with 9:27 to go in the first half when an open Jacob Leek converted a point-blank opportunity from about 10 yards out.
The Grizzly Cubs drew even with 3:30 left before the break. Owen Mahin’s shot was deflected by Plainfield keeper Matthew Muller, but the ball found its way to Fernando Lopez-Perez, who was able to hammer home the tying goal.
Franklin was the dominant side for the majority of the second half, and it had a couple of quality chances down the stretch in regulation, but it was unable to convert.
Senior goalkeeper Austin Barnard helped keep the Grizzly Cubs in the match with an outstanding effort, one that included a couple of spectacular diving saves.
The entire Franklin team, though, had a hand in gutting this one out.
“I’m really proud of the seniors, and all the kids,” Franklin coach Anthony Harris said. “They just keep fighting for us, and that’s why we’re 8-1-2 because they just keep working.”