Anthony DiFalco, Franklin Regional too much for Indiana in Class 3A WPIAL soccer quarters

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020 | 9:34 PM


At a time when most people are talking about the presidential election, Indiana coach Todd Myers might have cast his vote for boys soccer player of the year.

Franklin Regional junior Anthony DiFalco continues to showcase his talent for the No. 2-seeded Panthers, not only as a goal scorer but also as a facilitator. He simply makes things happen, and he did it again against the Indians.

“He ranks up there. … There is a reason he is an All-American and all-state player,” Myers said. “But the thing is, he has a lot of good guys around him, too.”

The star forward had two goals and assisted another to lead the Panthers to a 4-0 victory over No. 10 Indiana in the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals Wednesday night at Panther Stadium.

With its 12th shutout, Franklin Regional (15-2) advances to Monday’s semifinal where it will face postseason rival West Allegheny (15-1). The Panthers will host the matchup starting at 6:30 p.m.

Third-seeded West Allegheny edged No. 6 Moon, 2-1, in overtime. Franklin Regional has beaten West Allegheny in the last two WPIAL championship games.

The Panthers, who blanked Knoch, 7-0, in the first round, now have scored 119 goals and allowed seven this season.

“The quarterfinals have usually been the hardest for us in the postseason,” DiFalco said. “It boosts our confidence to get past this round.”

Indiana, which knocked off No. 7 Belle Vernon in a first-round shootout, ends the season at 9-5-2. It was its first quarterfinal appearance since 2017.

“Franklin is a really dangerous team,” Myers said. “They found our soft spots. Our guys were a bit overwhelmed in the first half.”

Indians senior goalkeeper Sam Fefolt faced his share of shot attempts. The Panthers, who dominated possession in the first half, peppered him with 26 shots, and he made 17 saves.

“They’re fast,” Fefolt said. “That’s what makes the difference.”

DiFalco, the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer with 82 career goals, revved up the offense early with a number of shots at Fefolt. While Fefolt was up to the task in the early going, stuffing four of the Panthers’ first five shots, he couldn’t hold off the Panthers for long.

DiFalco fed senior Blake Cooper for a score in the 26th minute, then came set from just outside the box and ripped a laser shot far post past Fefolt to make it 2-0. Zach Lorenz had the assist.

The Panthers added a third goal just before halftime when Zach Johnston popped in a shot off a header from senior Isaac Gamwo for a 3-0 advantage.

“It’s good that we had the shutout and that we’ve outscored two playoff opponents, 11-0,” Franklin Regional coach Rand Hudson said. “But the second half was not up to our standard. We were missing passes and not playing like we can. We have to be better, especially with West A coming in.”

DiFalco capped the scoring with about three minutes remaining when he headed home a cross from Billy Christafano.

Franklin Regional is 24-1-1 playing at home since 2018.

“It will be different playing (West Allegheny) at home,” said DiFalco, who has 35 goals and 21 assists this season.

“I don’t really know if there is a home-field advantage (this far in the playoffs). It’s going to be a really tough challenge.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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