Franklin Regional readies for WPIAL title-game foe West Allegheny

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Monday, November 12, 2018 | 8:54 PM


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As the PIAA soccer playoffs progress, WPIAL rematches become more likely. It’s the nature of the pre-slotted setup in the brackets.

Sometimes it’s not a matter of if, but when, teams will meet again in states.

Coaches often contemplate how to approach those rematches: just trust in what worked the first time, or make wholesale tactical changes to produce a better result?

Franklin Regional (20-0-1) and West Allegheny (21-2) will meet for the second time in 13 days when they play in the PIAA Class AAA boys semifinals at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Fox Chapel’s James M. Burk Athletic Facility. It doesn’t look like either side is doing much tweaking schematically. Why would they after playing one another so close in the WPIAL championship?

Scoring chances were about even for the majority of the 80 minutes, and only freshman Anthony DiFalco’s highlight-reel goal made it into the net as the Panthers celebrated their first WPIAL title in the sport with a 1-0 win.

The Panthers’ historic season could continue, but it will take another win over the potent Indians for it to happen.

“It’s all mental now. We just have to play our game,” Panthers senior defender Jake Shulock said. “Everyone knows defense is such a big part of the game. We have to keep playing well there.

“This is what we play for. It’s every high school (soccer) kid’s dream.”

West Allegheny was one of the highest-scoring teams in the state through the regular season, averaging nearly six goals. The Indians have 29 goals in six playoff games, with that shutout loss to Franklin Regional the outlier.

“West Allegheny is the only team that tried to go toe-to-toe with us this year,” said Franklin Regional midfielder Nolan Scholze, who played through flu-like symptoms in the state quarterfinals. “They try to make you play their way. We have a lot of spirit. We are so close to our goal.”

DiFalco is just one of several scoring threats for the Panthers, who have allowed only five goals all season and have 16 shutouts. Five players scored in a 5-0 PIAA first-round win over Bellefonte — Franklin Regional’s state-playoff debut — in Auston Kranick, Justin LeDonne, DiFalco, Connor Hudson and Joseph Bonfiglio.

In a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Cathedral Prep, where the Panthers absorbed their share of fouls but overcame the aggressive matchup to advance, sophomore Jake Sciorilli scored in the 71st minute.

“The thing about us is that we have players that, as the game goes on, are capable of making a bit of magic,” Panthers coach Rand Hudson said. “The next guy is ready to do his job. We’re starting to get more guys into their spots. They’re becoming more comfortable in more situations.”

That one golden opportunity from (insert a new name here) could lead Franklin Regional to its first state championship appearance.

“I’d love to score the game-winning goal,” Shulock said. “We have a lot of guys who could.”

West Allegheny made the Class AA finals in 2013 but lost to Holy Ghost Prep. The Indians plan to bring the heat again offensively.

“We are not planning any changes formation-wise,” West Allegheny coach Kevin Amos said. “They had three or four opportunities, as did we, but they finished and we didn’t. We’ll hope to capitalize this time on more quality scoring chances.”

Thirty-plus-goal scorer Nathan Dragisich, a Duquesne recruit, is one of several key players for the Indians. He had two goals in a 3-1 win over Hershey in the state quarterfinals.

Junior forward Amos Fletcher Amos also is underscored in the Panthers’ gameplan.

“He’s dangerous,” Hudson said. “This is about an even a matchup as you’ll see.”

Senior Ryan Beard won’t play for the Panthers because of concussion symptoms and will be replaced in the midfield by junior Garrett Beaver. Sophomore Cole Kaforey also could miss the game with an illness.

The winner will face either Strath Haven or Archbishop Wood at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Hershey for the championship.

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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