BY JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend’s multi-sport star Dani Franco took advantage of his second chance to beat rival Hays High.
Three days after missing the game-winning field goal against Hays, Franco converted his first career three-goal game to spark the Panther soccer team past the Indians 5-2 Monday at Cavanaugh Field. Franco scored a pair of goals in four games last year.
Franco and Oscar Martinez worked their magic as Martinez fed Franco for two assists and converted the Panthers’ other two goals.
The Panthers moved the soccer ball from side-to-side superbly. Franco and Martinez showed off their quickness and anticipation.
“We played together really well as a team,” Franco said. “Oscar and I have played together since we were little kids. We know each other really well. I don’t have to tell him where I’m at. Oscar knows where to find me.”
The Panthers (3-3) controlled the game from the outset with an attacking style that kept possession of the ball. Time-after-time, Franco and Hernandez launched quick attacks.
“I was really pleased with the effort and I loved our intensity,” said Great Bend coach Jesus Loera, Jr. “We came out ready. We moved the ball quickly. Hays has good athletes with a lot of speed. We had secure passing to minimize their touches. We made them adjust.”
Martinez fed Franco at the 38:02 mark for a 1-0 lead. Jesus Sanchez set up Martinez for the prettiest play of the day with a pinpoint corner kick that Martinez headed past Hays goalie Jack Fort for a 2-0 lead. Hays scored on a goal by Zachary Wagner at the 20:53 mark.
Martinez passed to Franco for the Panthers third goal. Hays’ Connor Teget made the Panthers’ pay for a foul for a 3-2 score. But Eduardo Villalobos made a perfect pass to Franco for his third goal. Martinez beat the Hays goalie for the clinching fifth goal.
The Panthers’ aggressive style went over the line when they started to draw yellow cards during the second half.
Loera said the only negative came when Alberto Hernandez drew two yellow cards and Eduardo Villalobos drew a red card. Both players will miss the Panthers’ next game Sept. 19 at Hays.
“We need to work on our composure,” Loera said. “We don’t want to be known as a team that gets red cards.”
Great Bend placed seventh at the Titan Classic and Hays High won a Titan Classic championship last week at Wichita South.
PANTHERS 5, INDIANS 2
HH 1 1 – 2
GB 2 3 – 5
FIRST HALF—GB—Dani Franco, assist Oscar Martinez, 38:02; GB—Oscar Martinez, assist Jesus Sanchez, 22:12; HH—Zachary Wagner, 20:53.
SECOND HALF—GB—Dani Franco, assist Oscar Martinez, 30:32; HH—Connor Teget, 27:00; GB—Dani Franco, assist Eduardo Villalobos, 23:42; GB—Oscar Martinez, 13:46.