Panthers on the prowl as Franklin Regional, Sewickley Academy win WPIAL boys golf team titles

Thursday, October 15, 2020 | 5:46 PM

The Franklin Regional boys golfers had a feeling 2020 might be their year.

Turns out the Panthers’ intuition was on the money.

Led by senior Michael Wareham, who shot a 6-over-par 78, Franklin Regional captured its first WPIAL Class AAA boys team golf championship Thursday at Cedarbrook Golf Course.

Chuck Tragesser, Nolan Shilling and Zach Abdallah shot 82, and Luke Kimmich and Jesse Anderchak shot 85. One of the 85s was thrown out, and the Panthers edged out defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Fox Chapel by three strokes with a team total of 409.

“This is such a great group of kids. They’ve worked hard, and a lot of these guys have been on the varsity team since they were freshmen,” Franklin Regional coach Jeff Traphagen said. “They just put in the effort, and they work hard. They really deserve it.”

For the past four years, Franklin Regional was in a section with perennial golf powerhouses Central Catholic and Fox Chapel, who have won the WPIAL title the past four years. Central Catholic won in 2016, ’17 and ’18. The Foxes finally broke through last season.

Fox Chapel was placed in a different section this season, and the Panthers took advantage of their opportunity.

They came out of Section 4-AAA with Central Catholic and shot the second-lowest score at their semifinal event Monday at Champion Lakes.

On a day when the wind was blowing and the greens were faster than expected, Franklin Regional’s savvy showed. The Panthers checked the greens in the short game, stayed patient in difficult situations, and as Traphagen, their statistics teacher, noted, they turned in the lowest standard deviation — the difference between the lowest scorer and highest scorer — of the day.

“These guys are so close and so tight, and I never know whose score I’m going to have to throw out and the last two times it’s been a tie,” Traphagen said. “So for us to have to throw out an 85, especially on a day where you only see like five (scores in the) 70s up there, I think that’s awesome because these guys deserve it.”

While Franklin Regional won the first team title in school history, Sewickley Academy won its eighth straight WPIAL Class AA crown.

The Panthers bested Quaker Valley, a team that had beaten them twice this season, by 18 strokes with a total of 418.

For longtime Sewickley coach Win Palmer, the feeling of capturing a team title is still special.

Quaker Valley obviously has a good team, and they beat us twice during the regular season, but today what I loved about our team was we dealt with adversity and we didn’t get down,” Palmer said about his team overcoming the windy weather and pulling through. “We embraced the tough conditions, and that’s the fun part about it. Every year is different and really the goal is to watch kids grow and develop and learn about mental toughness, and that was the difference today.”

Senior captains Tim Fitzgerald and Navin Rana shot 81 and 82, respectively, for Sewickley Academy, but it was sophomore Joey Mucci who led the way. Golfing out of the No. 3 spot, Mucci fired a 76, which tied Central Catholic’s Rocco Salvitti for the low score of the day.

It was the type of round Palmer has been looking for from Mucci since the beginning of the season. Mucci delivered it on the biggest stage.

“It was unbelievable, to shoot the lowest round of today in both double-A and triple-A. He’s a tremendous golfer,” Palmer said. “Tim and Navin have both had incredible years, but now he’s seen how good he is and it’s fun.”

Jack Gordon fired an 88, Will Duggan shot 91, and Thomas Sykes scored a 92 to round out the scoring for Sewickley Academy.

Sewickley Academy will look to defend its PIAA Class AA title Oct. 26 at Heritage Hills. Franklin Regional will be looking to take the next step.

“I told my guys, ‘Teams aren’t going to lay down out there, so we are going to have to go out there and find a way to get it done,’ ” Traphagen said.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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