VERSAILLES – Clinging to a 2-1 lead at halftime, Franklin County boys soccer coach Zac Donnelly challenged his 14 seniors to play their best soccer Tuesday night in the first round of the district tournament at Woodford County Park.
Donnelly’s Flyers responded in impressive fashion, scoring three second-half goals to beat the rival Wolverines by a 5-1 count.
Franklin County moves on at 11-6-2 to face host Woodford County for the district championship here Thursday night at 7:45, with both teams going on to regional tournament play next week.
“I told them at halftime, ‘We’ve got 40 minutes to win this game,’” Donnelly said. “We’ve got 14 seniors, and I said, ‘How to you want to end your season?’
“‘We’re going to play like it’s zero-zero.’”
Franklin County had taken the halftime advantage on goals by seniors Matthew Crosby and Logan Doris in the first half.
Crosby’s goal came off a corner kick by senior Rolman Delgado some 11 minutes into the match.
Doris scored with 10:53 left in the half off an assist from freshman Angel Rodriguez.
But Western Hills regained at least some of the momentum when senior star Adam Goss scored with just four minutes left in the first half.
“We thought we were playing well the last few minutes of the first half,” said Western Hills coach Daniel Cowan, whose team finished the season with a glittering 15-4-2 record. “We thought we were right in it. But they got a couple of goals, and that was it.”
Cowan referred to a pair of goals by the Flyers in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Senior Bryan Cox scored from close range at 33:27 to put the Flyers up 3-1, and then senior Mehdi Boughroud scored another in close goal with 30:25 left for a 4-1 FCHS advantage.
Boughroud added another goal with 23:59 left for the Flyers.
Senior Nathan Kring started in goal for Franklin County and went most of the way.
“I felt like we took the momentum early in the second half by scoring that third goal,” Donnelly said of Cox’s score. “I felt like that took a little bit of the air out of them.”
It was a sweet win for the Flyers, who came into last year’s district riding high, only to be eliminated by Western Hills.
“We’ve made comments all year long about how this team ended our season last year,” Donnelly said. “We had a great season going last year, so, yeah, this is definitely something we wanted to do, to end their season.
“I thought we played a great game.”
And a well thought out one, Donnelly indicated.
“We’ve known for three weeks that we were going to play this team,” Donnelly said. “So this is who we’ve been preparing for. And we went out and executed our game plan.”
Donnelly said the Flyers’ plan included aggressive play all over the field and a focus defensively on Goss.
“We knew we needed to shut down Adam Goss, who is one of the best players in the state,” Donnelly said. “Even being man marked, he was still able to get a ball in the back of the net, which says a lot about him. He’s a great player.”
“Franklin County played with intensity,” Cowan said. “They kept the ball, and they finished their chances.”
The Wolverines had beaten Franklin County 3-2 early in the season on their way to a 15-0-1 start, but since then Western Hills has suffered injuries to several key players.
The Wolverines were 0-4-1 in their final five matches.
“It definitely hurt us, missing three starters,” Cowan said. “Even with that, I thought that tonight was a lot closer than the score showed.”
“They are a great team, and they had a very successful season,” Donnelly said of the Wolverines.
Franklin County moves on to battle Woodford County for the district title. The Flyers lost to the Yellowjackets, 2-1, way back on Aug. 30.
“We want to win because there is a big advantage to winning district because then you’re going to play a No. 2 team from another district,” Donnelly said, looking ahead to the regional tourney next week. “So we’re definitely going out to win this game.”