CARDINALS TO SEMIS Franklin Pierce continues magical run

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When it comes to serious post-season teams, it usually comes down to three types of clubs, regardless of what sport is being played. There are teams that scrap and claw their way through a rough season, oftentimes playing above their heads and abilities. Quite often, these teams seem happy just to to have made the state tournament, and are usually sent packing in the early rounds. Then, there are the teams that are not only very solid, but they feel as though they can play with any team in the state. These are the teams that occasionally make a surprising run in their respective tournament and bring hardware back to their school.

The third sort of team is the type that just keeps mowing every opponent under, no matter who they are facing. When it comes to the remaining four teams in the 2A boys soccer state tournament, you can feel comfortable putting these squads firmly in the third category.

The Tacoma area still has one dog in the state championship soccer hunt, and it has been a bit of a surprise. The Franklin Pierce soccer program has always been solid, if not sparkling. However, this year’s model has been nothing short of spectacular on their journey to their semifinal match against Columbia River on Friday, May 25, at Sunset Stadium in Sumner. This squad is not only undefeated, but they are just about the stingiest ball club to be found when it comes to giving up goals.

In 21 games, the Cardinals have surrendered just 10 goals on the season. This includes just two goals in four post-season games. On the other side of the ball, Franklin Pierce doesn’t exactly light up the scoreboard, but their 48 goals are a far cry from what they have given up. That combination has pushed Franklin Pierce to a 19-0-2 record on the season, with their two ties coming during a bit of a lull in the middle of the season.

However, we did add that they were “just about the stingiest ball club” earlier, and that’s because there’s one team in the 2A field of four that has topped even Franklin Pierce’s defensive prowess. The big problem for the Cardinals is the fact that they will face this foe in the semifinals. The Columbia River Chieftains have been spotless this season. While playing against 3A and 4A teams in non-league affairs, not a single squad has been able to figure out how to get past them.

Columbia River enters the semifinals with a perfect 21-0-0 record. The Chieftains have achieved this mark with power on both sides of the pitch. Through 21 games, Columbia River’s adversaries have been able to muster just nine goals on the season. Meanwhile, the Chieftains have amassed 62 goals on the year. Their biggest win of the season was in the state quarterfinals when they topped perenniel power, and defending state champion, Archbishop Murphy by a score of 3-1 on Saturday, May 19.

Something is going to have to give in this matchup, and there’s a good chance it’s going to be a tight contest that goes down to the very last whistle. Buckle up, because if Franklin Pierce’s quarterfinal match against Sehome was an example of what soccer fans are in store for in the semifinals, it may be a good idea to borrow some of grandma’s heart medication.

It was a perfect evening at Franklin Pierce Stadium when the Cardinals welcomed the Sehome Mariners on Friday, May 18. Sehome came into the match battle-tested after a grueling season in the Northwest Conference, which also includes 3A schools. From the opening whistle, it was clear that the visiting Mariners weren’t going to be playing as though they had a mess of butterflies in their stomachs.

It would only take seven minutes for Sehome to put its mark on the scoreboard. After several runs deep into Franklin Pierce territory, the Mariners finally hit the bullseye on a goal by junior Jordan Byford. With an early 1-0 advantage, Sehome put the pedal to the metal and kept hammering away at the Franklin Pierce defense. The Mariners were winning the 50-50 balls, and their team speed looked as if it just might be too much for the Cardinals.

Looks can be deceiving. 

While Sehome seemed to be controlling the flow of the match in the first half, they were continuously turned away at the Franklin Pierce goal. All the while, the Cardinals continued to press their way back into the action. Long passes began to turn into chances for the home team. Finally, with just a few minutes left in the first half, lightning struck for Franklin Pierce.

A long pass into the goal box turned into a 50-50 ball between Franklin Pierce junior Luis Alavez-Herrera and Sehome goalkeeper Mason Kealy. It looked as though Kealy had arrived at the ball just a moment before Alavez-Herrera, but he also followed up with an arm that hooked the Cardinal midfielder, sending him dashing to the turf. The referee wasted no time pointing to the penalty circle, and a yellow card was issued to Kealy. The penalty kick was delivered by Dylan Carver, and he pounded a low burner into the back-left of the net to tie the game at 1-1.

The second half was a dog fight. Players were spending time injured or hurt on the turf, and substitutions seemed to be happening every other minute or so. Franklin Pierce would also have to play the entire second half without their leading scorer Gilbert De La Luz, who left the game in the first half after being taken down from behind on a breakaway. The Cardinals leading scorer will not be playing in the semifinals, or the finals, should Franklin Pierce advance.

As time wound down in the second half, Franklin Pierce had several near-misses, but was unable to find the finishing move and take the lead. Regular time drew to a close and the teams would now play two five-minute overtime periods. It was also a “golden goal” situation, meaning whoever scores first, wins the game.

It was clear that both teams were pretty gassed by the end of the second overtime. The fortunes for both teams would rest upon five penalty kicks each in a shootout. It was here where Franklin Pierce’s advantage in goal came through. Senior goalkeeper Noah Carver would go on to block two of four Sehome attempts, and that was enough for the Cardinals, as they took the shootout with a 4-2 victory.

Franklin Pierce will play Columbia River at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 25, at Sunset Stadium in Sumner. The first semifinal at 6 p.m. will pit Highline (16-3-1) against Burlington-Edison (13-8-1). The winners will advance to the state championship match the following evening at 5 p.m. at Sunset Stadium. The losers will play for third place at 12 p.m. Don’t be shocked if the state title game is an all-South Puget Sound League affair. 

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