Franklin Regional boys soccer accomplishing preseason goals

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Saturday, October 31, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Franklin Regional arranged some objectives early in the boys soccer season like it was laying out a new outfit for the first day of school.

Winning the section was first on the list.

Bringing home a third consecutive WPIAL title was there, too, a little farther down. Only it wasn’t talked about as much.

When a program wins as much as the Panthers, some things are just assumed.

No matter what they wear, they still look good.

“They’ve been gearing up for this,” coach Rand Hudson said of his players. “It’s kind of been unspoken all year. We shared the section, but now we can’t worry about our seed (in the playoffs). We have to play all the best teams anyways.”

The Panthers, who opened the WPIAL playoffs with a 13-1 record, had outscored their opponents, 108-5,

They scored seven or more goals 10 times and tallied more than 10 scores on three occasions.

“It’s been more business as usual,” Hudson said.

The Panthers’ only loss was 2-1 against Plum, the team with whom they shared the Section 4 title.

Following that defeat, Franklin Regional won its final six section games, allowing one goal along the way.

“It’s a strong field of teams who have clinched a playoff spot this year,” star junior forward Anthony DiFalco said. “We are just going to have to take it a game at time. We are going to have to be really focused this year if we want to make a run again.”

Production has been equal parts possession-style soccer, tight back-line play, more balanced scoring than one might expect, and some minor tweaks.

DiFalco, who gave up kicking for the football team this season to focus solely on soccer, had 30 goals — and 20 assists.

He had 78 career goals, which is believed to be the most in program history.

But senior teammates Blake Cooper (20 goals, 11 assists) and Zach Lorenz (13 goals, 17 assists) also have double-digit goals and assists.

Senior goalkeeper Gianni Diacopoulos has 10 shutouts.

Hudson has afforded DiFalco the freedom to move around when marked to loosen the traffic and create more opportunities.

“I know we’re on film now,” Hudson said. “Teams know what we have. Anthony knows he can swap with someone, anyone he wants, if needed. The kids have been really good about that. Other guys can switch up, too. They can go two layers farther, as long as someone covers for them.”

Luke Kimmich also has moved around some. The senior defender has had more offensive touches come his way, giving the Panthers yet another scoring threat.

“He has more freedom to move forward,” Hudson said. “It’s good to have options, especially when you get into the playoffs.”

The Panthers don’t plan to look past anyone in the bracket. Not even if a rematch with Plum, or a clash with regular playoff foe West Allegheny was just around the corner.

“I told our guys it’s almost to the point where it’s going to be another season,” Hudson said. “If we can win a couple games a week for four weeks, we can do it. Here we go.”

Franklin Regional, the No. 2 seed, defeated Knoch, 7-0, in the opening round and was scheduled to play No. 10 Indiana in the quarterfinals last week.

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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