EATON – His team lost Tuesday night, but Franklin Monroe boys soccer coach Danny Diceanu left the field feeling like the Jets were walking away with a victory.
Bethel entered Tuesday’s Ohio High School Athletic Association sectional championship game ranked ninth in the state by the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association and had beaten Franklin Monroe 9-0 during the regular season. Even though they were a big underdog, the Jets hung tough against the Bees and narrowly lost 2-1 to end their season.
“I think you caught me at Lehman when we won and I felt like we lost,” Coach Diceanu said. “Well, today it’s the opposite. We lost, but I feel like we won. The kids played excellent. It’s the most you can ask for the kids to do is play at their best, and I thought tonight we played our best game of the year with maybe the exception of Troy Christian. This is our fifth state-ranked team that we’ve played this year so these boys are tested. I’m proud of them.”
Prior to Tuesday’s tournament game Bethel averaged 5.8 goals per game on its way to compiling a 16-1-1 record. The Bees’ offense was led by Tyler Brueckman, who leads the Miami Valley with 40 goals.
But Franklin Monroe shut down the high-powered Bethel offense for most of the night. The game was scoreless and at halftime and remained that way until the final 12 minutes of the contest.
“What more can you say,” Coach Diceanu said, “they score 104 goals all year long, nine on us the first time around. We’ve given up, I think, 58 goals overall or something close to that. And to hold these guys down for all but the last 12 minutes when all the goals happened, it’s a fantastic job.”
Both teams had multiple chances to score throughout the night, but neither team was able to break through until there was just over 11 minutes remaining in regulation. Bethel’s Daniel Ross placed a corner kick in front of the FM goal, which led to a scrum with players from both teams kicking at the ball. Eventually Bethel was able to knock it into the goal to go up 1-0.
Less than four minutes later Bethel struck again when Joe Miller scored on a breakway to put the Bees up 2-0.
Facing a two-goal deficit, Franklin Monroe kept pushing and got a break when Bethel was called for a hand ball in front of its goal with 1:16 left on the clock. Bryce Robison then knocked in a penalty shot, cutting the deficit in half.
“Just wish we had a little bit more time at that stage but that’s what you want from your captain, is to put it in when have the opportunity, seize the moment, and he did that, gave us a chance to maybe pull one off,” Coach Diceanu said. “Just didn’t have a miracle in us today.”
Bethel ultimately was able to run out the final 76 seconds of the contest and preserve the 2-1 victory to advance in the tournament.
“They beat us 9-0 the first time around,” Coach Diceanu said. “We had some difficulties at that stage of the season. Brydon (Diceanu) sat out for most of that game, probably about 35, 40 minutes, maybe even longer than that, but anyway it wasn’t the same team that we had today that they beat 9-0. We had a game plan, and the boys executed it almost to a tee. You know in the end somebody’s going to lose. You hate for it to be us, but I’m so proud of my boys. I thought we played very hard and very well.”
With Tuesday’s loss, Franklin Monroe ended the season with a 6-9-2 record. It’s the fewest wins the Jets have had in a season since they went 8-8-1 in 2008, but Coach Diceanu thought the season went well considering they played a tougher schedule this season with a more inexperienced roster than they’ve had in the past.
“I’m very proud of the boys,” he said. “Every game it’s a different situation, a different animal to work against, and I thought some games we didn’t show and some games we fought. The schedule that we had was pretty tough as you mentioned. It’s hard to sustain and continue to have the excellence that we’ve had over the years because we don’t have quite the talent that we had. Let’s face it. Let’s be honest about things. These boys work hard, but the talent just wasn’t there like in the past years. We’re pretty young, got some freshmen starting, got some guys playing that haven’t played a whole lot of soccer compared to what I’ve had in the past.”
Franklin Monroe did advance to an eighth consecutive OHSAA sectional final this year but fell one win short of its seventh consecutive district championship appearance.
“Next year I’ll get seven new kids coming in is what I’m hearing,” Coach Diceanu said. “I know they all played some so I’m hoping we can bounce back here in the next couple years and be back at full strength. Got two good classes coming in next year and the year after that so it doesn’t always translate to wins but it’s something to look forward to.”
While he’s excited about the future, Coach Diceanu is sad to lose seniors Zach Cable, Parker Hesler, Cole McGlinch and Bryce Robison.
“Hate to see them go,” Coach Diceanu said. “I’ve had them since they were 11. I’ll miss them.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.