Hudson resigns after highly successful 2nd stint as Franklin Regional boys soccer coach

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021 | 7:03 PM


Rand Hudson has two loves in his life. His family and soccer.

Sooner or later, he knew one was going to take precedence over the other. Finding the right time to make one a priority was his challenge, but he did not want to drag out his decision any longer.

Hudson resigned as the boys soccer coach at Franklin Regional after 11 seasons, his second stint with the team ending after six years. He also coached the Panthers from 2005-09.

Hudson, 50, told his players earlier this week during a socially-distanced meeting in the bleachers at Panthers Stadium.

“I want see my kids play in college and spend more time with my family,” Hudson said. “I thought about leaving last year but decided to stick around for one more year. I knew I wasn’t going to coach forever.”

It has been a tough week for Franklin Regional.

Hudson’s decision follows that of longtime football coach Greg Botta, who also stepped down this week after 27 seasons.

The men who shared field time and kickers will be tough acts to follow.

In 2009, Hudson also stepped away for family reasons. His kids were young, then. Now, after a blink of an eye and a few playoff runs, two of them are playing soccer in college.

Hudson’s daughter, Sophia, is a junior at Lafayette, while one of his sons, Connor, is a freshman at Presbyterian College (S.C.).

Sophia lost this past season because of the coronavirus pandemic but Lafayette might play a mini-season in the spring.

Connor is set to begin his debut season next month.

His other son, Colton, is a sophomore at Franklin Regional who played a key role for the Panthers this past season as they went 16-3 and made a third straight appearance in the WPIAL championship.

Never one for the limelight, Rand Hudson called this past season, which was shrouded in covid-19 protocols and unsteadiness, “different, weird and sad.” But the Panthers avoided a shutdown and remained one of the state’s top teams. Players made a concerted effort to avoid gatherings during the playoffs.

A real estate agent since 2001, Hudson might sell houses but he built a program, helping the Panthers rise to the elite of the WPIAL in recent years.

He won 144 times with the Panthers, with six section titles and back-to-back WPIAL Class 3A championships (2018, ‘19). The Panthers reached the PIAA semifinals in both of those years and made the state tournament several other times, creating a friendly postseason rivalry with West Allegheny along the way.

Hudson’s players went 20-1-1 in ‘18 and 21-1-1 in ‘19. In three years, Franklin Regional posted an astonishing 45 shutouts in 64 games.

“Timing was fortuitous,” Hudson said. “I was happy to be the caretaker of these teams. I had great assistants. We tried to make it fun.”

There was no PIAA playoff run in 2020 because only district champions went to the state playoffs. Many wonder what Franklin Regional might have done in states, especially with all-everything forward Anthony DiFalco, who will be a senior in the fall.

The Panthers have five losses in the last three years and four of those opponents went on to win a PIAA title.

“I’m very proud to be a part of what occurred here and the accomplishments,” Hudson said. “It was never about me … but it will always be a part of me.”

Hudson had hoped to see DiFalco’s prep career through but the timing simply was not right to return.

Overall, Hudson won 196 games. His resume also includes three years as the boys coach at Norwin, where he won three section titles.

Interestingly, he was the first women’s head soccer coach at Grove City, his alma mater and a place where he was an all-conference soccer player. He was a “super senior” when he was asked to lead the team in 1993.

“Yes, I’m a trivia question,” he said.

Hudson still plans to stay involved with club soccer.

“It’s sad to think I won’t be on the sidelines next year,” he said. “But I will be cheering for the boys. It’s hard but it’s time.”

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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