For the Daily Journal
It didn’t come as easily as they would have liked, thanks in part to some superb Greenwood defense, but Franklin’s boys’ soccer team clinched an outright Mid-State Conference championship Thursday.
The visiting Grizzly Cubs got a Joe Nerding goal six and a half minutes into the match, then kept the Woodmen offense at bay to register a 1-0 win and complete an undefeated conference season (6-0).
“It feels great to go through the conference undefeated,” said Franklin senior goalkeeper Austin Barnard, who only needed to register four saves, thanks to his defenders’ efforts and the Franklin offense controlling the ball most of the contest. “We’ve had six or seven shutouts this season, and our back line has been looking good.”
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Franklin (9-1-2 overall) kept the ball at Greenwood’s end of the field for the majority of the match, peppering Woodmen goalie Damon Maynard with 17 shots. Maynard had to make a few spectacular saves to keep the Cubs from extending their lead.
Nerding’s goal came after he used some nifty footwork to dribble around two defenders. He put the ball past Maynard on the left side of the net from about 10 yards away.
“Their goalie is phenomenal, and they’re an up-and-coming program; they’ve got good players,” Franklin coach Anthony Harris said of Maynard and Greenwood. “We were a little selfish (offensively), and I thought we’d be able to pull away more, but our spacing was good and we stayed in our formation. We needed to keep the ball down on the ground, but got it in the air too much.”
Franklin’s lone loss came Aug. 18 in its season opener against Bloomington South, which is ranked 10th in the latest Class 2A poll, and one of its two ties came in the next match (3-3 vs. Shelbyville on Aug. 20). Since then, the Cubs have gone 9-0-1, including their perfect Mid-State run.
“Our work ethic in practice has been good, and our defense has stepped up tremendously,” Barnard said, explaining Franklin’s late-season roll.
The Grizzly Cubs are off until next Thursday, when they host Roncalli. Greenwood hosts Greenwood Christian Academy on Monday.