Miles McGuire and Grady Thiels have known each other since they were 5.
So it was no surprise to McGuire when his Ben Franklin teammate clipped the ball his way in the ninth minute of Thursday’s Division II playoff match against visiting Leesville.
McGuire touched it off his thigh, then scored the lone goal in the No. 7 seed Falcons’ 1-0 victory over the No. 10 Wampus Cats.
“Grady and I have been playing since the beginning, so he saw the run I was making and got it to me,” McGuire said.
It was a team-best 26th goal of the season for McGuire, a junior who was named Most Valuable Player in the state championship game last season.
The victory moved the Falcons (18-4-3) a step closer to a repeat.
They will play No. 2 seed St. Michael the Archangel in the quarterfinals. St. Michael won its first two playoff matches by a combined score of 10-0, beating A.J. Ellender 9-0 in the opening round and Teurlings Catholic 1-0 in the regional round.
“(St. Michael) is fast and they are physical,” Ben Franklin coach Jose Ferrand said. “We have to defend and be on top of our game.”
The Falcons, who haven’t lost a match since early December, have defended well so far in the playoffs. They have yet to allow a goal in their first two postseason matches.
“Our defense made a few errors, but overall we are playing well,” sophomore goalkeeper Connor Travis said. “Our guys at the top are playing great.”
Travis got plenty of support from his back line of James Rousell, Oliver Kjelldren, Edward Wax and Lonnie Brown.
Travis’ came up with a big stop in the 59th minute that prevented Leesville from tying the score.
“One goal, one goal,” said Leesville coach Joe Saverino, in his second season. “They found a way to get it in the back of the net, and we didn’t. It was two pretty evenly matched teams. But it’s the playoffs. Somebody’s got to win it.”
Leesville, which lost in the regional round of the playoffs for a second straight season after winning its first playoff game last year, finished 14-6-2.
Ben Franklin had several other chances to increase its lead, including a shot by Francesco Cenni in the 78th minute that bounced off the crossbar.
“Our intensity kind of dropped in the second half, but we did what we needed to do to keep them from scoring,” Ferrand said.
“We had a couple opportunities. We should have scored. It was a dogfight.”
This one was much closer than the lop-sided 8-0 win over Plaquemine in the playoff opener. That, perhaps, is a good thing.
“Obviously you would prefer to have easy games all the way to the finals, but that’s not realistic,” McGuire said.
But trying to repeat isn’t easy anyway, according to Travis.
“It’s been very tough, I’m not going to lie,” Travis said. “We cant just be satisfied just because we won it last year. So our whole attitude is to stay focused.”