A visiting Franklin High soccer team gave the Pitman Pride all they could handle in Tuesday's CIF Sac-Joaquin Section first round playoff game — in the first half. The Pride weren't down for the count, however, as they pulled off an incredible second half run, and eventual 2-1 victory.
“We were on our toes with this being the first playoff game,” Pitman head coach Oscar Mercado said. “Franklin is a good squad, very disciplined; there were a few plays where they nearly scored. So at half time we spoke about little things we saw going on and the team had a good attitude, great character and came out in the second half knocking the ball more than we did the first half.”
Mercado's half-time pep talk didn't sink in right away, in fact things started off shaky for the Pride in the second half as they missed countless shots, including a Fernando Maldonado free-kick that was scored, however, called back due to the indirect free-kick rule.
“The team came out in the second and played well, but we couldn’t score early on as we were hitting the post,” Mercado said. “The beautiful goal that was marked as an indirect kick that went in but didn’t count was harsh but it's ok; it gave us a boost and as a result we scored two.”
With about 15 minutes left to play in regulation, Maldonado headed in the Pride's first goal after the ball bounced off a Franklin defender and set him up perfectly, inches away from the net, but far enough from the goalie to jab it in the back of the net.
“That first goal gave us that momentum and energy that the group needed. In playoffs it’s always good to score early and not be scored on because you just have little time to fix anything,” Mercado said.
With Pitman heating up and the clock ticking, they knew they needed a strike quickly to put them up and it came a minute later as Grant Tallent was able to strike the ball in the back of the net to the opposite corner just above the goalie's box.
This proved to be the game sealer as the defense played phenomenal for the closing minutes of the game including a great effort from starting goalkeeper, sophomore Jesus Nunez.
“Playoffs are a whole different scenario and if you lose you go home,” Mercado said. “This level in playoffs, every team is going to come out and battle. The team with the fewest mistakes will move on.”