But it's human nature for the Hilltoppers to wonder if their soccer season didn't go up in a cloud of dust on a poor field, and with a referee's decision to red card a player early in the second half.
Franklin defeated the Hilltoppers 3-0 in the semifinals of the Class AAA state tournament at Richard Siegel Soccer Complex — played on a field where cows might starve.
It was the first loss of the season for the Hilltoppers (21-1-1) while top-ranked Franklin remained unbeaten (17-0-0) and likely had its path to the title cleared by Collierville's 1-0 upset of Knox Farragut in overtime in the other semifinal.
“(Franklin) is a great team, but we've got a great team, too,” said Science Hill head coach Brandon Kind. “It didn't fall our way tonight, and we didn't find our rhythm.
“But I'm so proud of the effort. We left it all out there, and at the end of the day that's all you can ask is for the kids to leave their hearts on the field.”
Franklin coach Mike Burgoyne agreed his team had an advantage on the grass-challenged field.
“It would have been a good match on a better field,” said Burgoyne. “It was our advantage on this field. The ball was in the air a lot because of the field.”
The smaller Hilltoppers wanted to keep the ball closer to earth.
“It wasn't conducive to our style of play,” said Kind. “When you don't have size, you want to play the game on the ground. They did a good job disrupting that.”
Franklin scored first as Matt Brady took a cross and popped it over the head of Science Hill goalkeeper Grayson Garland in the 17th minute.
Although that goal hurt Science Hill, the big blow came in the 36th minute. Franklin intercepted a Science Hill pass and turned it into a through ball to Allister Berger, who got a breakaway chance for a one-versus-one with the keeper. Berger slipped the ball to the right post, and Franklin carried a 2-0 lead into halftime.
If that wasn't bad enough, Science Hill's Max Vaughn was given a red card after a play where Franklin probably should have been given a yellow card prior to the Hilltoppers' ejection.
“I don't even know,” said Kind. “The referee didn't explain. But I don't want to make excuses.”
Berger scored again just three minutes after the red card, and the game was basically over. A man down, Science Hill had trouble consistently mounting threats.
And Franklin's defense was as good as gold, led by standout defender Brad Ross, the Tennessee Gatorade player of the year.
“It was an especially good defensive performance for us, but it was also typical,” said Burgoyne. “The back four and the goalkeeper have played that way all year.”
Science Hill's defense wasn't as good as it had been throughout the season. The three goals allowed were the most the Hilltoppers had surrendered in a game all year.
But it doesn't deter from a superb season.
“I could not be more proud as a coach,” said Kind. “Twenty-one wins. It's incredible. We just ran into a great team, and it didn't fall our way tonight.”
Franklin will play Collierville on Friday at 5 p.m. (EDT).
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