Giancarlo Franco used to score goals for St. Anthony’s. Now he prevents them.
Franco, a senior who switched from center forward to center halfback because of a teammate’s injury at the start of the season, helped throw a blanket over Chaminade’s high-scoring Matt Vowinkel as host St. Anthony’s clinched the CHSAA regular-season title and No. 1 playoff seed with a gripping 1-0 victory over Chaminade Thursday night before a spirited crowed of more than 700.
“I’ll do anything to help this team win a game. It’s all about Vowinkel for Chaminade. They want him to create all the plays,” Franco said of the Flyer, who has 10 goals and seven assists this season. “Me and [Andrew] Weltner did a good job on the back line. We have a lot of guys who can make plays.”
One of them is Fernando Robayo, who leads the CHSAA in scoring with 14 goals. He slipped a perfect through-ball behind the defense to Ryan Carfora for his 11th assist in the 14th minute and Franco & Co. made that stand up.
“We used a quick throw-in and they weren’t ready for it,” Carfora said of his 11th goal. “They switched off and Fernando found me with the pass.”
The teams had played to a scoreless draw in an earlier meeting on Sept. 27, so Carfora’s goal was a big deal. This despite the fact that both teams entered the game on goal-infused winning streaks since the tie. St. Anthony’s (11-0-1) had averaged five goals per game in a nine-game winning streak and Chaminade (10-0-1) had averaged 4.8 in winning seven straight.
It was no surprise that Chaminade applied offensive pressure. The Flyers had three consecutive corner kicks in the first half but none resulted in a shot on goalkeeper Rob Leamy. But when Leamy was tested, the junior came up huge. Two of his five saves were spectacular — a diving stop on Jack Graziano’s left-footer with 32 minutes left in the first half; and another lunging save with 16 minutes left in the game to thwart Tim Davis from the left wing.
“We stick together out there. We don’t have an MVP,” Leamy said. “We tried to limit their shots and we knew we couldn’t break down. I was confident I could stop the ball and I was confident that my teammates would clear it.”
Franco was a big part of that defensive effort.
“That was a great performance, not a good one,” assistant coach Don Corrao said of Franco.
“This is the best feeling ever,” Franco said. “It’s my last game on this field. It’s such a great way to go out.”