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Broncos finish as regional runners-up

11 players draw All-Region 1B honors

Franklin High School’s varsity soccer team emerged from a challenging 2021 regular season and an elite field of competition to finish second in its region, putting the Broncos among the top eight teams in the state at the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 1 level.

This showing led to 11 different Franklin players receiving all-region honors, with four making the first team.

The Broncos are among the squads at the Class 1 level that are coed and compete in the boys soccer category of teams.

The No. 2-seeded Broncos competed against Appomattox Regional Governor’s School (ARGS) in the Region 1B Tournament championship game June 16 at Richard Bland College, ultimately falling 4-0 in a contest that Franklin Coach Jonathan Smith said came down to who could control the ball more.

“ARGS had a great midfield attack that we had a difficult time overcoming,” he said. “Our kids played their hearts out but just couldn’t break through.”

To reach the regional final, Franklin defeated No. 3 Central Lunenburg High School 5-4 at Armory Field in a June 14 semifinal that went to penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie stood through the end of regulation and four overtime sessions.

“Our game against Central Lunenburg was won on heart and grit,” Smith said. “Both teams were very evenly matched, and it came down to who wanted it more.”

He said another key to victory was the great play of Broncos junior goalkeeper Jaylon Santiful, who had 25 saves in the game, allowing only one goal in regulation and making two saves during the best-of-five penalty kicks phase of the game.

Junior Bao Vann scored for Franklin early in the second half to tie the game at 1-1. 

When that score stood on the other side of four overtimes, the Broncos and Dragons competed in penalty kicks to determine the winner, with Franklin winning the best-of-five contest 4-3, making the game’s overall final score 5-4. The Broncos that scored in the best-of-five contest were senior Kayla Felts, Vann, junior Benjamin Owens-Kerbaugh and senior Jaheim Wilson.

Broncos listed as seniors graduated from the school June 4.

Franklin finished the 2021 season with an overall record of 4-8, but Smith emphasized that the record did not represent the team’s success this season.

“Due to the VHSL COVID restrictions, we were only allowed to play 10 regular season games,” he said. “We had an eight-game schedule in the Tri-Rivers District, which is one of the best soccer districts in the entire state. We finished 2-6 in the district and 1-1 outside of district play. Although we finished the (regular) season 3-7, we earned enough points to finish second in the 1B Region.”

Smith said he and Juan Quiroz, who coached the Broncos with him, could not be any happier with Franklin’s overall team performance in 2021.

“It would have been very easy for this team to quit early in the season,” he said. “These kids overcame some incredible obstacles and never let anything stop them from trying their best.”

He highlighted the team’s rankings in the region and the state and also its representation on the All-Region 1B teams. Broncos making the first team included Felts, Wilson, senior Richard Meades and Santiful.

“Felts was the first girl to score a goal for the boys’ soccer team and tied for the most goals on our team this season,” Smith said as he spoke on each of Franklin’s first-team selections. “Wilson scored two goals and had four assists this season but anchored our midfield with his leadership skills.

“Meades was the captain of the defense and was recognized for being one of the best center backs in the entire state this season,” Smith continued. “Santiful was the heart and soul of the team. He was voted to the first team unanimously and led the region in saves and save percentage.”

Broncos making the all-region second team included Owens-Kerbaugh, Vann, sophomore Soloman Moody, senior Jenae’ Evans, sophomore Blake Linton, junior Kwami’ Mitchell and senior Jahmajae Bynum.

“More importantly, the kids were able to bring pride and respect to the City of Franklin through their effort,” Smith said.