For the Daily Journal

Franklin’s boys soccer team asserted itself almost immediately in its all-important Mid-State Conference match against Whiteland on Thursday evening.

The Grizzly Cubs scored in the fourth and 10th minutes of play and maintained control the rest of the way for an impressive 7-2 win against the Warriors.

Junior Owen Atkison had the golden boot, leg and toe, managing a double hat trick with six goals. As if that weren’t enough, he added an assist.

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It was the fourth time this season the explosive Cubs had tallied five or more goals in a game.

By winning, the Cubs not only improved 6-2-1 overall, but they kept themselves even with Decatur Central atop the Mid-State standings at 3-0.

Winning also halted a two-game winless streak for the Cubs, who lost to Seymour and tied with Greenfield-Central earlier this month. It was a welcome sight for Franklin coach Tony Harris.

“We had struggled a little bit defensively,” Harris said. “(Tonight) we worked on that. We had a good game on Tuesday, but couldn’t quite get that ‘W.’”

Whiteland (4-7, 2-2) got its first score when junior midfielder Shawn Sullivan poked one past junior goalie Dylan Bastin in the 44th minute. Bastin stopped a Warriors penalty kick later in the second half before giving up a trivial last-minute goal.

Franklin got on the scoreboard when sophomore Owen Mahin scored in the fourth minute on a shot that ricocheted off the post and cleared the goal line before Whiteland keeper Caleb Sanders could stop it.

Six minutes later, Atkison found the back of the net, thanks to a nice pass from sophomore Yobany Lopez-Perez. He scored again shortly before the end of the first half on a penalty kick.

Atkison continued his barrage with four more goals, upping his total to 20 goals already this season.

“I’ve never scored six goals in a game before. I last scored three in a game against Decatur Central, but this is a first for me,” Atkison said. “I was surprised they weren’t picking me up in the game.”

Atkison said he has a few more goals in mind — including 40 goals for the season — but a conference title is first and foremost.

“We need to get up for the next games, especially Plainfield, which is next week,” Atkison said.

First, Franklin plays at Martinsville on Tuesday. Up next for Whiteland is Mooresville next Thursday.

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Ken Severson is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.