Franklin Regional boys soccer team knocks off top-ranked Plum

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022 | 10:10 PM


The Franklin Regional boys are playing their best soccer of the season. Just ask Plum.

The fifth-ranked Panthers went on the road Tuesday night and upset the top-ranked Mustangs, 1-0, avenging an earlier Section 3-3A loss while extending their winning streak to seven and ending Plum’s 26-game unbeaten streak in the regular season.

Danny Christafano had the lone goal with 40 seconds to play in the first half.

“We were sharp in implementing what we have been working on,” Panthers coach Lukas Petersen said. “I am proud of our boys for how they played against an opponent like Plum.”

Plum (10-1-1, 8-1) had not been shut out since 2018.

Franklin Regional (8-3, 8-1) has not allowed a goal in five games, a credit to a steady back line and outstanding play from goalkeeper Aryan Selokar, who repeatedly batted away attempts by the Mustangs to tie it.

“I have to give a big shoutout to our defense. They were incredible,” said Selokar, who made six saves. “I came out with confidence and felt we could beat this team.”

Plum’s last regular-season loss came against Franklin Regional (3-2) last September. Both teams made the WPIAL semifinals last year.

“We had three golden chances (in the second half) and couldn’t score,” Plum coach Raf Kolankowski said. “We woke up eventually, but by the time we woke up, it was too late. This was like a playoff game, but I told our guys, it’s just one game.”

Plum, which attacked the Panthers with long shots over the top, won the teams’ first meeting of this season 2-0, as Lucas Pitman had a goal and an assist.

The teams have split their two-game series three seasons in a row.

After few quality scoring chances in a chippy first half, Franklin Regional found a soft spot and cashed in.

Sam Dawson managed to get behind the Mustangs’ back line just inside the 20-yard line for a two-on-one with Christafano on the left wing.

“We had been working on that,” Christafano said.

Dawson touched off neatly to Christafano, who tapped a shot far right past keeper Owen Zalewski for a 1-0 lead with 40 seconds left in the first half.

“We fell asleep, and they made us pay for it,” Kolankowski said.

It was just the fourth goal allowed by Plum all season.

“We did everything we have been working on in practice,” Christafano said. “Our defense played great, my brother (Billy Chistafano), Jake (Kimmich), Zim (Zimmerman), Sam (Dawson); (Selokar) was amazing. This was 100 percent the best game we played all year.”

Franklin Regional has not allowed a goal since Sept. 8 against Gateway and has outscored its last five opponents 32-0.

“We did some really good things in the first half,” Petersen said. “We moved some guys around in this game with Billy (Christafano) in the back, Jake Zimmerman in the midfield, we had Joey Bayne and Colton Hudson working together, and our defense was solid. It’s impressive to shut them out.

“Credit to Plum, they played a better second half.”

Petersen said Dawson was “a rock” as the holding defensive midfielder.

Plum controlled the play after halftime, threatening repeatedly. But the Panthers wouldn’t budge.

Zimmerman made a huge stop when he slid along the goal line and sent a Plum shot away from the cage with 14:40 to play.

Selokar made two terrific saves to thwart Mustangs’ chances inside eight minutes to play, including a strike by Pitman.

Plum has three section losses in the last three seasons and they are all to the Panthers.

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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