The legend of South Jersey native Jamie Franks grew even more over the weekend, as the 30-year-old head coach and the Denver Pioneers advanced to the College Cup for the first time thanks to an 89th minute goal from center back Kortne Ford.
Ford, a junior who spent time in the Colorado Rapids Academy, got on the end of a free kick from classmate Alex Underwood to break the deadlock with the third-seeded Clemson on Friday night and stun the 4,101 fans at Historic Riggs Field. Clemson made it all the way to the College Cup final a year ago.
The unbeaten Pioneers will next face Franks’ alma mater, Wake Forest, in the first of the two semifinal matches on Friday night.
Wake Forest got a pair of late goals two minutes apart from freshman Ema Twumasi to top upstart ACC foe Virginia Tech in front of 3,410 fans at Spry Stadium. Ben Lundgaard (Greenville, Del.) made six saves in the losing effort for the Hokies in a game they were outshot 18-5. Ian Harkes had the assist on Twumasi’s first on a long pass.
Though the two teams have never met, the ties between the two programs are strong.
Demon Deacons head coach Jamie Muuss was Franks’ predecessor at Denver before taking the head job in Winston Salem before the 2015 season. Franks, who was a high school star at Shawnee High School in Medford, N.J., won a national championship as a player for the Demon Deacons in 2007.
Wake Forest last advanced to the College Cup in 2009. Philadelphia Union Academy grad Joey DeZart is a freshman on the team, but has made just three appearances this season, none in the tournament.
Stanford is the only team making a repeat trip to the College Cup, which they won for the first time in program history a year ago.
The Cardinal knocked off the Cardinals 2-0 in Louisville on Saturday night behind a 64th minute goal from leading goal scorer Foster Langsdorf, his 15th of the year, a 79th minute free kick strike from Sam Werner and some stout defense.
Lancaster county natives Brian Nana-Sinkam, a senior center back, and Drew Skundrich, a junior midfielder, were a noticeable impact in the game. Goalkeeper Andrew Epstein made four saves to hold Louisville scoreless for just the fourth time this season.
Stanford will face North Carolina in the second semifinal in Houston on Friday night.
The Tar Heels ended Providence’s Cinderalla run with a dramatic double-overtime goal from substitute Drew Murphy.
The goal, which broke a stalemate in the 102nd minute, was the first for Murphy in a Tar Heel uniform in an injury-plagued season after transferring from UC Santa Barbara. His 21-minute appearance off the bench was just his seventh this season.
Freshman midfielder Jack Skahan, who played for the Philadelphia Union Academy U16 team in 2014-15, played 72 minutes off the bench for the Tar Heels while defender Colton Storm (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) helped the back line limit Providence to only two shots on goal.