The fourth-seeded Maple Grove Red Dragons (11-3-2, 9-2-1) opened the postseason with a 7-0 win at home against Class C prequarterfinal opponent Franklinville (3-12-1, 2-10) on Tuesday.
The Panthers drew the matchup as the 13th seed and could not recover after a closely-battled first half.
Maple Grove began the game going into the wind, which proved to be a difficulty for both teams during the course of the game.
Maple Grove’s Riley Beaton moves up field past Franklinville’s Butch Ruibal during Tuesday’s Section 6 Class C prequarterfinal boys soccer game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jay Young
"Having the wind with us in the first half was helpful, " said Franklinville coach David Kays.
The advantage would not last.
The only goal of the period came in the first five minutes when Greg Nelson was able to control a rebound and bury the ball past keeper Jared Finch.
The initial shot came from Patrick Crossley, but Franklinville's defense was unable to clear the second-chance opportunity.
Minutes later, Crossley fired another shot on net that was saved by Finch.
The Red Dragons were able to sustain pressure on the Panthers' defense for the majority of the opening half. After the first goal, Nathan Saar hit the post on an open shot that was passed by Nelson.
Shortly after Saar's shot, David Meekins had an uncontested chance after dribbling through defenders, but hit the side of the net.
At the 20th minute, defensemen John Schauman had a deep try that was corralled again by Finch and punted to midfield.
In the first half, Miguel Reyes and striker John Willey of the Panthers were well-played by the Maple Grove defense, only recording one scoring opportunity.
Just before the end of the first half, Riley Beaton struck a left-footed try that required Finch to make his fifth save.
The intensity of the first half dissipated as soon as the teams switched ends and the Panthers were forced to deal with the wind. Maple Grove scored twice early on, with both goals coming from Dominick Fabrizio. The goals were assisted consecutively by Beaton, the first one coming on a pass in front and the second on a corner kick.
"That first half was really close," said Maple Grove coach Jerry Pardue. "Luckily, we changed a few things around later in the game that worked out well."
After going up 3-0, the Red Dragons were denied their fourth score due to a goaltender interference call that resulted in a free kick.
The Panthers recorded their best chance of the game in the second half when Reyes struck a free kick that was narrowly saved by Kyle Richardson.
The Maple Grove lead stretched to four on a low bender from Meekins that was assisted by Brandon Greiner.
Next to score was Saar on a pass from defensemen Andrew Farnham, who was moved to an offensive role later in the game.
Farnham capitalized on his shift in position and netted the final two goals of the game, the first on an assist from Saar.
Finch was forced to make 11 stops for the Panthers while Richardson recorded two saves for the Red Dragons.
Maple Grove will next face fifth-seeded Allegany-Limestone at home in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.