Conventional wisdom says that it's difficult for a team, in any sport, to beat an opponent three straight times over the course of a season. So when second-seeded Maple Grove, winners by a combined score of 15-1 over Franklinville in the squads' two meetings this year, hosted the still-winless No. 15 Panthers on Wednesday, coach Kevin Beaton noted he was very mindful of the precedent.
"I was actually thinking about that today," he said. "That fearful (history) of (trying) to beat somebody three times. And Franklinville is a much improved team from the beginning of the year, I give them a lot of credit. They work hard, they run to the last whistle and from when we played them that first time to now they've really improved."
Luckily for Beaton, and the partisan crowd on hand, the Red Dragons weren't about to let their already solid season be cut short by an untimely upset.
Above, Maple Grove’s Nick Hutchenson clears the ball before a Franklinville player moves in during Wednesday’s Section 6 Class C prequarterfinal game. Below, Erik Olson of the Red Dragons scores on a free kick for one of his three goals. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Rob Tucker
Erik Olson netted his 14th, 15th and 16th goals of the season in the first half, goalkeeper Kyle Richardson denied his opponents a goal for the 13th time - and fourth contest in a row - and Maple Grove rolled to a 4-0 victory in the Class C prequarterfinal bout.
The victory, No. 15 in 17 tries this season, vaults Maple Grove into the quarterfinals, where it will host yet another familiar foe and rival in seventh-seeded Frewsburg on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
The Bears topped No. 10 Chautauqua Lake in their prequarterfinal match on Wednesday, 2-0.
Olson got the only score Maple Grove would need 13 minutes into the opening half when a Franklinville player was called for a handball foul about 5 yards outside of the 18-yard box. The senior, surveying the thin blue Panther wall in front of him, found an opening and drilled a hard, top-spin heavy shot that nosedived in front of goalkeeper Jared Finch and bounced into the back of the net.
While Maple Grove continued to have solid scoring chances for much of the remaining half (all of which Finch, who made 11 saves, and the Franklinville defense nevertheless rebuffed), Olson finally found the range again - twice in quick succession, in fact - a little more than two minutes before the break.
After the ball was pushed ahead to Josh Lamper on the wing, the junior midfielder switched fields, sending a high-arcing pass to teammate Dominick Fabrizio who, after controlling the ball and maneuvering around a defender, deftly passed to Olson inside the goalie box for the easy score to make the advantage a pair.
Not even a minute later, Olson took a pass from Patrick Crossley, rounded his defender and tapped the ball across to complete the hat trick - his first of the season.
According to Beaton, getting his captain and top goal scorer going ahead of the tough battles undoubtedly to come this postseason was crucial.
"He's really good, and it was good for him to score," he said. "(Erik) really makes it all go on offense for us, and obviously he has a real strong leg. It's good he got some goals today because we're going to need him to score, we'll need as many goals from him as we can get."
Jesse Pardue made the advantage four goals in the 51st minute from Andrew Lindstrom. The assist was Lindstrom's first of the season and the goal was Pardue's fourth.
Now, one step closer to a Section 6 title, the Red Dragons will have to beat yet another opponent for the third straight time this season if they hope to move on to the semifinals.
"We've played (Frewsburg), and won both games (against them)," Beaton said, "but they have some athletes, for sure. They've got some kids that can play, so we're certainly not going to be taking it lightly."