It’s common for a coach to coin their team’s senior night as “bittersweet.” But when head coach Sherrill Smith said it on Thursday night, the words rang absolutely true.
The bitter: The Frankfort Panthers lost 2-1 in an electrifying second half of play at Sower Soccer Field, which is the last time the seniors will play there. Senior Taylor Lile, who has missed much of the season due to a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL), watched from the sidelines in a leg brace.
The sweet: Senior James Murphy scored his 100th goal of his career, motivating his team to a second half of play deserving of a tie-game — the type of play that wins the fast-approaching district tournament.
“I felt like it was a great senior night for our seniors,” Smith said. “James Murphy has 100 goals in a wonderful career. But my other senior Taylor Lile was not able to play. Taylor Lile is just the heart and soul of our team. It breaks my heart when a senior gets injured and can’t play. We want to finish strong for him.”
Lile and six seniors, including Murphy, David Perry, Matthew Carpenter, Lyndon Bellamy, Cody Hall, Charles Kirkland, and FHS’ team manager, Ashley Welch, were all honored at half time of the game.
But Frankfort’s seniors were kept quiet during the first half, while the Braves’ upperclassmen took over. Senior Humberto Waldovinos served a corner kick directly in front of Frankfort’s goal, which allowed junior Austin Anglin to hit a header straight into the net for the 1-0 Braves lead with 20:57 on the clock.
Grant County continued its possession domination in the first half when a Braves free kick and a header in front of the goal gave senior Forrest Schmitt the opportunity to shoot for the 2-0 score before half time.
But it was in the second half that Frankfort brought the intensity, beginning with Murphy’s 100th career goal with 20:54 left in the game. The score made the game 2-1 as the Panthers went searching for any way to tie.
Murphy credited his 100 goals to trying to set an example by playing hard every single play.
“It took hard work from the very beginning,” the senior forward said. “I kind of struggled my freshman year and some older players taught me some stuff about working hard. I was kind of short and weak, but getting older, stronger, taller and smarter, everything came together to help me out on the field.”
Murphy’s first goal came his freshman year against Anderson County when he headed the ball backwards over the goal keeper.
Murphy, who said he hopes to play soccer in college, saw his team answer after the score and attacked the Braves’ side of the field again and again. The effort did not go unnoticed. Braves head coach Dave Schmitt said he “had to keep two players on Murphy just to slow him down.”
“The last half, we came out and continued to hustle and had opportunities,” Smith said. “We were unlucky. We played a very good Grant County team. They wanted a win and they played very well.”
Sophomore Bailey Spade was in goal for Frankfort, while sophomore Jordan Kearns protected the net for the Braves.
The game ended 2-1 as the Panthers’ multiple attempted shots were unsuccessful. But it was the kind of play Smith wanted to see.