Seventh-seeded Ben Franklin started a playoff journey to defend its Division II state soccer championship on Saturday, a task 26th-seeded Plaquemine was unable to end prematurely.
The Falcons scored three goals in the bidistrict playoff’s opening minutes en route to an 8-0 shutout at Pan American Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“Even though we’re the seventh seed, this team has been playing well,” Ben Franklin coach Jose Ferrand said. “In the last month and a half, we haven’t lost a game. You can see they work together, they combine together, they play for each other.”
Franklin (16-4-3) moves on to play 10th-seeded Leesville next week in the regional round.
Plaquemine’s second trip to the LHSAA soccer playoffs in school history ends with the loss of five starting seniors, including co-captain Justin Maniscalco.
Chris Chatters set up Franklin’s first goal, maneuvering near the net, placing Miles McGuire in position for one of his three goals. Chatters also scored once, along with Donte Oliver, Nick Borilloi and Olivier Dejoie.
Franklin’s ability to jump on an opponent and sense weakness after scoring is one of the reasons McGuire said this season’s squad is even better than the 2014 edition.
“We move the ball around, we defend well, we are very organized, we just play our game,” he said. “Whoever is going to play us, we play the same way every game. We pass the ball around, we create chances and we win.”
Plaquemine coach Alex Amaya changed his team’s strategy early against Ben Franklin, which he said he regretted. Entering the match, Amaya moved leading scorer Rodney Johnson into a defending role to slow down Franklin’s push.
But several minutes into the match, Amaya feared Plaquemine (5-12-6) needed Johnson’s offense.
“As soon as we went on the attack, they got three goals,” Amaya said. “That cost us.”
Franklin’s midfield push made sure Maniscalco was unable to set up Johnson, who scored more than 20 goals this season.
“I think we competed better than I thought, although the score doesn’t show that,” Maniscalco said.
“After three goals, everybody’s head started to go down, so I was trying to build up their confidence,” Johnson said. “Keep them in the game.”
The two schools entered the first round from different perspectives.
Last season, the Franklin boys’ squad, seeded eighth, was part of a state soccer duo as the school’s girls program also won a state title.
On Tuesday, Franklin’s girls team will play in the regional round. The boys team, short of one 2014 senior lost to graduation, will join them in the second round.
Meanwhile, Plaquemine is hoping to build on momentum, as well as avoid off-the-field challenges which made this season daunting, from losing players that chose to not return to the program to an assistant coach lost because of mounting health issues.