Franklin Regional boys soccer wants to pick up where it left off

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Saturday, August 17, 2019 | 6:26 PM


Before the start of a recent practice, Franklin Regional boys soccer coach Rand Hudson left his car running as it sat parked just outside of Panther Stadium.

Players were inflating soccer balls using a pump plugged into the lighter of Hudson’s car. Call it innovation or a veteran move, but before long, soccer balls were bouncing.

Coming off the best season in program history, the Panthers also will look to keep their motor running.

“We lost 10 seniors, a lot of regulars,” Hudson said. “We have a lot to replace, but we have a lot of players learning new roles and are ready to go.”

Franklin Regional won its first WPIAL championship, going 20-1-1 while posting 16 shutouts and allowing seven goals in 22 games.

“That was one of the best high school teams I have ever seen,” Hudson said. “It was such a quality group. They were grounded, listened and bought in. It would be nice to do what we did again only add to it with a state title. Running the table is so difficult to do.”

The Panthers lost to West Allegheny in the PIAA Class 3A semifinals, finishing one game shy of Hershey and the state final.

“We want to take it game-by-game, but we’re hoping to get back to the WPIAL final,” said sophomore Anthony DiFalco, an on-the-rise forward who had eight goals and nine assists and scored the winner in the WPIAL championship against West Allegheny. “Winning states would be something else.”

Hudson will look to blend four returning starters with a group of letterwinners who went along for the ride last season. He said the unit should go about 15 deep.

“We know teams will focus more on Anthony, so, hopefully, we can get the trailing guys involved, too,” Hudson said. “I think Anthony has become more confident as he has become more comfortable with the physical game at this level.”

A returning All-WPIAL player, DiFalco has played in three straight national championships with the Beadling ’03 team. Junior Jake Sciorilli also plays on that team and will be a key player for the Panthers.

Goalkeeper Jeremy Lucas was superior at times last season behind a blanketing defense. Lucas, who is helping Hudson as a volunteer assistant, had planned to play at St. Francis (Pa.) but could end up at Penn State.

His replacement will play a pivotal role in net. That looks to be senior Garrett Beaver.

Three players likely will play back for the Panthers, including junior defender Cole Kaforey and junior midfielder Luke Kimmich.

Senior Connor Hudson also brings experience to the midfield, along with junior Blake Cooper and quick-to-the-ball junior Isaac Gamwo.

The Panthers will miss one of their most talented forwards with the graduation of all-stater Auston Kranick.

Senior Nolan Scholze is another scoring threat on the outside, and additional contributors will be senior Chris Daugherty, junior Zach Lorenz and junior Zach Johnston.

The Panthers again plan to play possession soccer, keeping things compact while looking to score on cross-passes. The defense will continue to bear down. Sometimes, one goal could be enough.

“We want to get those crosses in,” Hudson said. “Whoever wants to score can score. We have a number of guys who should score goals for us.”

Hudson thinks West Allegheny will be good again — perhaps a budding postseason rivalry is brewing – and believes Thomas Jefferson, Chartiers Valley and South Fayette will be tough outs in Section 4-3A.

West Allegheny opens the season ranked No. 17, and Franklin Regional is 20th, in the TopDrawerSoccer Mid-Atlantic Regional rankings.

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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