A day after the upset bug bit Center Grove in the first round of the Franklin boys soccer sectional, the host Grizzly Cubs were briefly in danger of suffering a similar fate.
But a second-half flurry, capped by two goals from Owen Atkison, enabled Franklin to escape with a 3-1 victory against a feisty Whiteland team Tuesday evening.
“In the second half, we really bucked down and realized that we’ve got to do it,” Atkison said. “It’s not just going to come.”
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The Grizzly Cubs (13-3-1) will play a semifinal match tonight against Roncalli, which eliminated Greenwood in Tuesday’s nightcap, 6-0. Perry Meridian and Southport will face off in the first semfinal.
After Franklin dominated the first 20 minutes of the opener but came away with nothing, Whiteland (6-11) stunned the crowd by striking first on an Isaac Couch goal 22 minutes in.
That lead held up well into the second half — but the Franklin chances continued to pile up, and with 23:16 remaining, the Grizzly Cubs finally cashed in when Joe Nerding corralled a pass, settled it and tapped a grounder to the left side of the net.
The game-winner came a little more than five minutes later off a long clearing kick by goalie Dylan Bastin. Ethan Pheifer knocked the ball down for a charging Atkison, who punched it home with 18:14 to go.
“We kind of got to a point where we could get some free momentum,” Franklin coach Tony Harris said, “and when Joe and Owen are on the ball, good things are going to happen for us.”
Atkison added an insurance goal at the 7:24 mark, converting a free kick from just outside the box.
The early scare, though, should help keep the Grizzly Cubs from getting caught off guard early as they move forward.
“It’s good that that did happen,” Atkison said, “because it’ll allow us to not do that again. … We’ve got to go out and play our best game every time.”
In the second match of the night, Zach Wallem gave Roncalli (7-9-1) the only goal it needed when he finished off an assist from Garrett Simmerman 11 minutes into the first half. Simmerman added a tally of his own in the 15th minute, and Mateo Gonzalez, Michael Shirley and Ethan Frye tacked on goals before the midway point.
The Woodmen (1-16) were able to keep Roncalli at bay for most of the second half, but Thomas Thang added a late goal to cap the scoring.