Canon-McMillan boys edge Franklin Regional in penalty kicks

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 | 10:57 PM

Canon-McMillan boys soccer coach Larry Fingers' experiment was initially a laugher. Working centerback Tommy Samosky in practice as a goalie to utilize as a penalty kick specialist wasn't something Fingers necessary planned on deploying.

When the Big Macs faced a shootout Wednesday at Gateway's Antimarino Stadium, he decided it was time to see what results Samosky would yield.

No one on Franklin Regional enjoyed the joke much.

Samosky stopped the Panthers' first penalty kick by Zach Guidry. Then he scored the game-deciding penalty kick to help the 11th-seeded Big Macs upset No. 3 Franklin Regional 3-2 (5-3) in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal.

“It started as a joke,” Fingers said. “He plays multiple sports, and he does it in practice. Many years ago I had a kid who played at Carlynton who played in the midfield who was a PK specialist; he would save everything. In dawned on us to try it, and we worked on it in practice. We figured we'd give it a go.”

Samosky also pulled Canon-McMillan, which will play North Allegheny in the semifinals Saturday at a time and site to be determined, out of the fire. With 1 minute, 45 seconds remaining, Samosky found the ball in the box off a free kick and pushed past Franklin Regional keeper Jeremy Lucas to knot the score at 2.

The Panthers (16-3) opened with little trepidation.

While Franklin Regional didn't look overly comfortable playing against more physical Canon-McMillan (12-7), patience on the attack paid off.

“The physical play, if that's what's allowed in the south, that's what they are going to do,” Panthers coach Rand Hudson said. “They were getting a piece of us on every ball. Our kids handled it well. We got the ball where we wanted.”

From the outset, the Panthers pressed. Nearly 10 minutes in, Dom DiFalco rocketed a free kick which cleared the Big Macs' wall, but was turned away late by a defender.

Two minutes later, Guidry found himself standing with plenty of space 25 yards from the goal. With no hesitation, he hit a strike which found its way into the net after Canon-McMillan goalkeeper Marshall Robertson got a hand on it.

The Panthers nearly doubled their lead when a shot from Shane Popko bounced off Robertson in the 28th minute. Franklin Regional's Zach Kranik collected and pushed the rebound past Robertson, but was ruled offside.

After being under siege for the first 20 minutes, Canon-McMillan found its footing. Following a long throw into the box, Brandon Byer blasted a shot into the top of the net to even the score with 2:45 left in the first half.

Then Byer nearly put the Big Macs ahead. A breakdown in the Franklin Regional zone left Byer alone with Panthers goalkeeper Jeremy Lucas within 10 yards of the net. But Byer didn't hit his shot cleanly, and it skittered innocently past the post.

With 10:45 remaining in the contest, the Panthers drew a foul inside the box.

Guidry pushed the ball into the bottom corner on a penalty kick to put Franklin Regional ahead 2-1.

But Samosky came through.

Franklin Regional, which has never made the semifinals in school history, will have to wait another year to advance.

“I'm proud of them,” Hudson said. “I do believe they have more wins than any Franklin team has gotten, plus a section title. Once it quits stinging, you'll realize you did something, and they laid the groundwork for the younger players to see what it is to be in a playoff game. They deserved more.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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