DiFalco’s 2-goal game leads Panthers past unbeaten Cathedral Prep

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 | 6:29 PM


Saturday’s PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal matchup between Franklin Regional and Cathedral Prep was a battle of two unbeaten teams.

They had met on this stage a year ago, and Franklin Regional ended Cathedral Prep’s season. It turns out that wasn’t enough for the Panthers.

Franklin Regional scored two second-half goals and controlled the pace of play to cruise to a 2-0 victory and advance to the PIAA state semifinals for the second straight year.

“This was a huge win for us,” sophomore forward Anthony DiFalco said. “We wanted to get back to the semifinals and get our revenge from last year, and we did just that. So, it’s really nice to get back to where we were last year.”

DiFalco was the hero of the day for the Panthers, scoring both goals 17 minutes apart to propel his team to another state tournament victory.

After outshooting Cathedral Prep (22-1), 6-2, in the first half, the Panthers (21-0-1) started to see production.

“We just had to get it wide, that was our main thing,” Franklin Regional coach Rand Hudson said. “We saw some room on the outside, and we were able to get it there with some quick switches and play through the middle.”

Five minutes into the second half, the Panthers struck. Blake Cooper carried the ball down the right sideline and sent a cross into the middle of the field that DiFalco ran onto.

The talented sophomore, who had 30 goals coming into Saturday, made a touch past Cathedral Prep keeper Ndgaiza Fidele and buried the ball into the back of the net.

“I saw their center back pinching, so I made a run in behind and there was no one there,” DiFalco said. “Then I saw their keeper come out, so I just had to make a move around him. There was an empty net, so it was a nice easy tap-in for me.”

With a one-goal lead, the Panthers needed a little insurance. DiFalco provided it with his 32nd goal of the season.

Off a throw in, DiFalco took a touch across the 18-yard box into open space and ripped a right-footed shot that curled into the top-left corner of the goal. It was the type of goal that had Hudson appreciating the type of talent he has.

“We’re spoiled watching it,” Hudson said. “His finishes and his one-on-one ability is unreal.”

While the offense was there in the second half, the Panthers defense throughout the game was top-notch, like it has been all season long.

It had a tough challenge in front of it. Cathedral Prep’s Jack Foht came into the game with 52 goals, but the Panthers rose to the occasion and limited the Ramblers to five shots.

“We didn’t mark him, per se,” Hudson said. “But the holding midfielder needed to cut out the passes on the ground, and if they got over the top then one of the backs would get up on him. He’s so dangerous if he turns and gets at you.”

Just like they have all season long, the Panthers displayed a unique ability to take their opponents out of their comfort zone. Now, they’ll get a second straight opportunity to punch their ticket to the PIAA championship.

They’ll play District 3 champion Lower Dauphin, who beat West Allegheny, 3-2, on Tuesday at a time and site to be announced.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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