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Patriots rally to win second 1A state title

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CARY — Franklin Academy's boys soccer team overcame a 2-0 deficit by scoring three unanswered goals to beat Christ the King High School 3-2 in the 1A state championship at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary Saturday night.

This is the second state title for the Patriots. This year, they were led by first-year head coach Justin Bailey. He said the players relied on their ability to score to get back into the match and defeat Christ the King.

"We've talked all year how to get back into games," Bailey said. "We know we can score. We just had to put some shots on goal. These guys fought hard. We made some tactical adjustments and switched people around. Everyone played a great game to put us back in. We knew we could do it."

Christ the King scored the first goal in the 17th minute of the match. Then the Crusaders added on another goal with 10 minutes left in the first half. 

Franklin Academy senior Mateo Espinoza said he and his fellow teammates did not want this year to end the same way it did last year: with a loss.

"We just wanted it more," Espinoza said. "We don't know what losing is like. We lost two games this year, we didn't like it. In order to not get that feeling again, we kept going."

Josh Eatmon got things going for Franklin Academy. The sophomore midfielder took a long, low shot at goal. The ball slipped through the goalkeeper's hands to cut the deficit to 2-1 with six minutes left in the first half.

Then four minutes later, Espinoza passed the ball to Max Bademian. The junior forward launched a powerful kick into the back of the net to tie the match at 2-2.

Four minutes into the second half, Bademian struck again. Luis Peters fed him the ball on a short pass in the penalty box and Bademian kicked it in to give the Patriots their first lead of the night.

"Coach Bailey always tells me to shoot whenever I have the opportunity," Bademian said. "I saw the goalkeeper come out on both times, so I knew I could make it if I took the shot."

From there, Franklin Academy had to play solid defense in order to finish the night as state champs. Senior defender Jaxon Moseley said that communication was key to hold off Christ the King.

"We figured out that me and Andrew Fitzgerald were coming on top of each other on defense," Moseley said. "We communicated more. We've been down before. We kept our head cool."

The Patriots kept the ball away from the Crusaders for 36 minutes and when the final buzzer sounded, they walked off the field as state champs.

"It's exciting," Bailey said. "I was an assistant coach the year we lost the state championship in 2017 and also when our girls team lost the state title this past spring. Coming in, I knew we were the better team. We just had to show that. The guys worked all offseason to get here. I just got to tag along for the ride."

Bademian was named the Most Valuable Player of the match for his two goals.

"It feels great to be state champs," Bademian said. "We were down 2-0 last year in our final game of the season. I saw the scoreboard today and I said to myself, 'We're not losing like that again.'"

For Espinoza, he said the state title is a great way for him and the other seniors to walk off into the sunset.

"It's a great way to end my high school career," Espinoza said. "We went to the state championship two years ago and lost and that was not fun. This year, we're happy to redeem ourselves."

Moseley's older brother, Chase, helped Franklin Academy win their first state championship back in 2015. Now he can be a part of history as well.

"My older brother won the school's first state championship four years ago," Moseley said. "I promised myself that I would get back here. Coming into this game, I was proud of our season, no matter how we ended tonight."

The Patriots have had many successful seasons since their first title back in 2015. However, Franklin Academy lost to Bishop McGuinness 2-0 in the 2017 1A state championship and then lost to Lejeune in the fourth round of the 1A state playoffs last year. This time, the Patriots came out on top in the final match of the season. Franklin Academy finished the year with a school-record 25 wins.

Bailey said this season is something the seniors and the other players on varsity will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

"This championship win validates what these seniors have done for Franklin Academy," Bailey said. "It was a tough season this year. We practiced every day and everyone pushed one another. We felt like we were the best team in the 1A class and we just had to prove it."