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Southern Nash holds off Franklinton amid questionable call

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FRANKLINTON — It was a controversial ending to the night when Franklinton’s boys soccer team hosted Southern Nash Monday Oct. 7. The Firebirds handed the Red Rams their first conference loss of the season 1-0. However, a referee’s call made a big impact on the outcome. Neither team could score in the first half. Both defenses shut out the opposing squad to make it even at halftime. Then with 6:15 left in the match, Southern Nash’s Lelyn Herndon broke free and scored the first and only goal of the night off an assist from goalkeeper Eliel Benitez. That made the score 1-0 late in the game. Franklinton head coach Bert Woodburn said his defense didn’t do what they were supposed to do and it allowed the critical game-changing goal. “Our guys didn’t clear the ball properly on that play,” Woodburn said. “That gave Southern Nash a chance to win the ball and he did what he was supposed to do. He finished the ball, which is how you win games.” Then four minutes later, the biggest moment of the night happened. Franklinton took a free kick near the side line and put the ball in the air. Franklinton’s Aryan Ahmadi hit the ball with his head. The ball bounced off the post and into the upper part of the net for what seemed like the game-tying goal. However, the referee did not blow his whistle and play resumed. Half of the Franklinton team celebrated what they thought was a goal while the other half continued playing. Once there was a break in the action, the Franklinton home crowd made their voices heard. The frustration with the no-call filled the stadium.

Woodburn said he talked to the referee moments after the no-goal, demanding an explanation. Even though it was a big call that could have decided the game, Woodburn went on to say that one play doesn’t change a game if the players did what they were supposed to do on offense earlier in the match. “The referee said the goalie’s hand hit the net and not the ball,” Woodburn said. “I think the bigger thing is that we had nine opportunities to put the ball into the back of the net and we either hit it over the goal or wide of the goal. If you don’t finish, then you’re susceptible to these kind of games where the ref doesn’t get an excellent call. The other team made a clear, easy goal and we didn’t, so they win. We just have to beat Southern Nash when we play at their place next time.” Even if Southern Nash’s goalkeeper stopped the ball with his hand, it still looked as if the ball crossed the goal line. The Franklinton players and fans were obviously upset after the game. The referees didn’t budge on their decision and the game ended with a 1-0 win for Southern Nash. With the loss, Franklinton dropped to 14-2-1 overall and 4-1 in 3A Big East conference play. The loss breaks a five-game win streak for the Red Rams. Southern Nash is now tied with Franklinton for first place in the conference after extending their win streak to five games. It's also the first loss at home for Franklinton this season. “All season, we’ve struggled finishing opportunities we have,” Woodburn said. “We can’t leave anything on the table. If we get some guys to finish the ball correctly, I don’t think anyone can beat us in our conference.” Franklinton will play Fike at home Monday Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m.