Norwin, Franklin Regional among fresh faces at WPIAL team golf championships

Tuesday, October 13, 2020 | 6:52 PM

Norwin switched home courses for boys golf about five years ago.

Nothing against Irwin Country Club, the Knights just wanted a layout more comparable to the ones where their section foes play. So they moved to Youghiogheny Country Club near McKeesport.

It was a few more miles down the highway but worth the drive.

Norwin also moved up in WPIAL stature.

The Knights qualified for the WPIAL championship for the first time in program history.

They won’t be the only fresh faces at the finals. Franklin Regional will join the Knights on Thursday at Cedarbrook Golf Course in Rostraver. The Panthers have not played in the championship round since 2003.

Derry also will be there. It made the Class AA final for the second year in a row and will look to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish.

Norwin traveled to River Forest Country Club in Allegheny Township for the semifinal round Monday with eight other teams and doubled down on its accomplishment by advancing to the finals.

The Knights posted a score of 396 to finish third. Sal Cerilli and Trent Kablach led the way with matching 76s, Logan Divald shot 79, Ronnie Howard 81 and Alex Graham 84.

Nathan Graham’s 85 wasn’t a bad throwaway score.

The Knights went 9-3 and won a share of their first section title. They were tri-champions with Penn-Trafford and Indiana.

“They are all seniors and played together well,” ninth-year coach Neil Rushnock said. “There were certain pairings that just meshed together. That was the goal from the beginning: make the playoffs.”

Franklin Regional, the WPIAL runner-up in 1983 and ’85, posted a 385 to finish second in the other Class 3A semifinal at Champion Lakes to advance.

The Panthers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Zach Abdallah shot 73, Michael Wareham added a 74, Luke Kimmich had 77, Chuck Tragesser 78 and Jeff Anderchak 83 for the Panthers, who finished one stroke behind Central Catholic.

“No doubt this has been a very successful season for us and these players,” Franklin Regional coach Jeff Traphagen said. “They continue to believe that we belong here this year and know it’s going to take a good day of play that keeps the goal of a team championship within reach.”

Derry carded a 418 and took second in the Class AA semifinal at Duck Hollow, behind seven-time defending WPIAL champion Sewickley Academy.

There was speculation Derry might not be permitted to play in the finals because the school is closed for five days because of covid-19 cases. Athletics were shut down, but the school administration gave the golf team clearance to play Thursday.

The Trojans’ top scorers in the semis were Ryan Bushey (76), Bryce Baum (78), Hunter Jurica (84), Ashton Beighley (87) and Antonio Hauser (93).

“From the start, these kids set their goal. They wanted the section title outright. They wanted to advance to the finals, and they have done it,” Derry coach Tracey Smeltzer said. “This group has been getting better and better as the season rolls on.”

The other Class AAA finalists are Central Catholic, Fox Chapel, Shady Side Academy and Peters Township.

Fox Chapel is the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion.

With scoring so tight in the semifinals — five of the six teams shot between 381-396 — the Class AAA field could produce a new name at the top.

“All players look back at a round and can select a few holes where they can shave a few strokes by making a better decision or a better play on the ball,” Traphagen said. “Whichever team makes those good decisions and plays, it’s going to be their day in such a close tournament. Optimistically, it could be us.”

Derry hopes to again stay close with Sewickley Academy, which is not the runaway favorite for the first time in years.

“We’re going to have to work for this one,” Panthers coach Win Palmer said. “We’ll have some challengers.”

The other Class AA teams are Carmichaels, Quaker Valley, Neshannock, and Ellwood City.

Quaker Valley, which beat Sewickley Academy twice in section play this season — the Panthers had not lost in section play since 2010 — could be the greatest threat to the Panthers’ reign.

The Quakers shot 406 in the semifinal.

Still, Sewickley Academy (408) is the champion until someone dethrones it.

“I think the fact that we not only came in second, but we did it within 10 strokes of a program that wins championships,” Smeltzer said, “is a great boost for our confidence going into Thursday.”

The WPIAL champions will advance to the PIAA finals Oct. 22 at Heritage Hills Resort in York.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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