Franklin Regional boys have high expectations for ’17

Monday, August 28, 2017 | 6:18 PM

The Franklin Regional boys soccer team has been “one and done” in the WPIAL playoffs three out of the last four seasons.

And while playoff appearances typically indicate successful seasons, the Panthers want to take the next step in 2017 to see if they can again advance to the postseason and then string together a few consecutive wins once they get there.

“It's kind of become, in a good way, the norm for the program,” coach Rand Hudson said. “We make the playoffs, and that's what we should do. And now the goal is to make some hay once we get into the playoffs, and we'll try and build on last year.

“We should be in the conversation and competing for a section title and trying to get a higher seed in the tournament, and that's where we want to be. You don't ever just want to expect things … but you do want to hold those expectations out there for the kids, and that's where we want to be, and I think they can.”

To reach those goals, Franklin Regional will rely on a balanced lineup. While the team was anticipating Moshe Simpson to return for his senior season, the all-WPIAL forward's move to South Carolina means the team will rely on a committee of goal scorers this year.

“A lot of my teams over the years have been pretty balanced as far as goal scoring, so I'm hoping to see that again this year,” Hudson said.

Offensively, forwards Shane Popko — the team's leading scorer two seasons ago — and Ryan Beard will take on a big part of the scoring burden.

“We're looking for a lot of leadership out of him this year as a senior and as an experienced player and as just an all-around great kid,” Hudson said of Popko.

In the midfield, juniors Justin LeDonne, Auston Kranick and Zack Snyder will be counted upon to provide a scoring punch. Additionally, the team will utilize senior midfielder Dom DiFalco's skills on set pieces and welcomes back Zach Guidry, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

The team will be led on defense by senior Kylen Cooke, Jake Trapanotto and juniors Jacob Shulock, Matt Wareham and Matt Kimmich. Sophomores Connor Hudson and Nolan Schultz also provide depth at a position that held every opponent to three goals or fewer last season, including four shutouts.

They will be playing in front of junior goalkeeper Jeremy Lucas, a player Hudson expects to step seamlessly into the starting lineup.

“Jeremy Lucas is ready to step in; he's an outstanding keeper. … I don't expect any dropoff in goal keeping going from Josh (Zimmerman) to him,” he said.

Utilizing last season's narrow 1-0 playoff loss to perennial power Upper St. Clair as a building block, Hudson thinks his team will be all the better with an added year of experience in 2017.

“One year older, one year wiser and hopefully a little bit more experienced, quicker and maybe a little bigger,” Hudson said.

“That was a fairly young team last year, and we would have liked to have gone further than we did, but we were in every game and gained a lot of experience I think playing against some of the perennial powers.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.


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