Saturday morning’s District 6-II soccer match between Holy Cross and Ben Franklin lived up to expectations, and fans will have to wait a little longer to crown a clear winner.
After an opening half dominated in the midfield by the Tigers, Ben Franklin scored the equalizer midway through the second half as the teams battled to 1-1 draw at Pan American Stadium.
“Every game that we experience like this is good for our boys,” Holy Cross coach Luke Sheekey said. “We have to rise up to play opponents like Ben Franklin.
“Some of our starters are young. We have three or four freshmen in the starting 11, so they just haven’t played in games like this on the high school level. It’s definitely good for us.”
Holy Cross (8-4-3, 3-0-1) moved to Division II this season, and the Tigers boast a No. 1 ranking in the latest Louisiana High School Soccer Coaches Association poll.
Holy Cross took the lead in the 32nd minute when freshman Josue Fuentes gathered a long cross field pass in the box and blasted it to the far post for a 1-0 lead.
The Tigers looked destined to add to their lead early in the second half as they opened with three corners and four shots in the first five minutes, but Ben Franklin (5-5-3, 1-0-1) held.
The defending state runner-up Falcons, who are No. 3 in the latest poll, tied the match in the 59th minute when Donte Oliver dribbled into the box and found Miles McGuire, who finished near post.
“This is the first week that we’ve had everybody healthy, so we’re still getting back into it,” said Ben Franklin coach Jose Ferrand, about missing McGuire and the team’s center back until this week. “They’re still trying to learn each other. Give a lot of credit to Holy Cross because they were very organized and made it difficult. This match could have gone either way because we both had opportunities.”
The final 20 minutes were frantic as both teams pushed and generated chances only to see them saved and sail wide.
Ben Franklin senior midfield Grady Thiels said the Holy Cross defense made life difficult.
“They were definitely crowding the midfield, so we didn’t have that much time,” Thiels said.
“That was our biggest issue in the first half. We have one of the best front lines of any team in the state, but they made it hard to get it to them. Once we figured it out, things started to open up.”
Sheekey said the difference in the match was missed opportunities.
“It opened up right from the start of the second half,” he said. “We had a number of chances right at the beginning of the second half, and I think if we get one of those, we would have gained some confidence and put some more in. You can’t miss that many chances and expect to win the game because we knew that Ben Franklin would score at least one.”
The teams will meet again Jan. 30 at Ben Franklin.