Franklin Regional boys pepper Bellefonte with 54 shots in PIAA 1st-round victory

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018 | 8:57 PM


With the wind whipping at their backs, giving their shots a turbo boost, Franklin Regional raided Bellefonte with shots in the first half.

One would have expected the wind to work against the Panthers in the second half when the teams flipped sides.

Instead, the WPIAL champions breezed to victory in their state playoff debut.

Five players found the net and the Panthers laced 54 shots at District 6 champion Bellefonte before settling on a 5-0 victory in a PIAA Class AAA first-round game Tuesday night at their playoff home away from home, Norwin Knights Stadium.

Franklin Regional (19-0-1) is now 3-0 in the postseason at Norwin after registering its 15th shutout of the season.

The Panthers advance to play Erie’s Cathedral Prep on Saturday in the quarterfinals.

“The first 10 minutes were a little frenetic,” Franklin Regional coach Rand Hudson said. “Then we settled down. Their goalkeeper made some great saves. We just kept attacking and tried to play the ball low. We had 11 corner kicks in the first half.”

Spearly had 20 saves for Bellefonte (12-3-1).

The Panthers watched as shot after shot sailed high left, high right, off the crossbar and into the Spearly’s belly.

The ball barely crossed midfield in the first 40 minutes.

A blast finally managed to get by Spearly, and the chances suddenly became fruitful. Senior midfielder Zack Snider, who had a hat trick in a WPIAL semifinal win over Thomas Jefferson at Norwin, crossed in front to senior Auston Kranick. Alerltly, Kranick turned and fired low past Spearly for a 1-0 advantage in the 33rd minute.

The Panthers quickly maintained momentum.

Less than three minutes into the second half, senior Justin LeDonne dribbled in close to the end zone line and challenged Spearly from about 10 yards. His low, right shot found its way home and the Panthers held a 2-0 lead in the 44th minute.

“We were playing too far in early on,” Hudson said. “We had to get deeper to the end line, away from (Speary). We found our width.”

Freshman standout Anthony DiFalco, who scored an electrifying goal in the WPIAL final, made it 3-0 when he came up with a steal, evaded two defenders and made a move with a slight pause, and scored with 24:46 remaining.

DiFalco became more threatening, at least on this night, when he moved to the outside.

Junior Connor Hudson added the fourth score, a header from close range on a cross from Kranick, to make it 4-0.

“We’re used to the venue and that helped us tonight,” Connor Hudson said. “We were a little shaky in the beginning, but after about 10 or 15 minutes we got more comfortable.”

The shutout almost didn’t happen.

Senior forward Evan Nyquist took a penalty kick for Bellefonte in the 63rd minute. The shot clanked off the right post and got away from Panthers keeper Jeremy Lucas, and Nyquist put back the rebound. But the score was waved off because the shooter cannot touch the ball twice on a PK, a product of the double-touch rule.

Senior Joseph Bonfiglio had the final goal for the Panthers.

Lucas did not face a shot on goal.

Ryan Beard and Luke Kimmich also had assists.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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

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