Plum blanks Franklin Regional in ‘brawl’ between Class 3A contenders

Thursday, September 1, 2022 | 10:02 PM

A matchup of the Tribune-Review’s top two teams in the WPIAL Class 3A rankings wasn’t exactly the Backyard Brawl of boys soccer, but it was close.

The game between returning WPIAL semifinalists had physical interaction, contested shots and strong play in net.

The bragging rights, at least after the first of their two Section 3 meetings of the season, will go to Plum.

Senior Lucas Pittman had a goal and an assist as the No. 1 Mustangs blanked No. 2 Franklin Regional, 2-0, on Thursday night at Panthers Stadium in Murrysville.

“We executed our gameplan very well,” Plum coach Raf Kolankowski said. “We did some of the things we worked on. We possessed the ball and created some opportunities. It’s always a good game with Franklin Regional. We split the section the last two years.”

The Mustangs moved to 3-0-1 overall and 2-0 in section. Franklin Regional, still working in a new system, fell to 1-3, 1-1.

After a 0-0 first half, Pittman connected on the first goal, which came at the 24:28 mark of the second.

The midfielder found himself wide open on the far wing, took possession and delivered a ranging shot far post that sneaked past lunging goalkeeper Aryan Selokar.

“I had to put it in the right spot,” said Pittman, who has six goals this season. “I didn’t see anyone around, so I said, ‘Let’s take a shot and see what happens.’ ”

Added Kolankowski : “He couldn’t have put it in a more perfect spot.”

From there, the Mustangs aimed to squeeze out the remaining time and were mostly successful while limiting the Panthers’ opportunities.

“They took advantage of their chances, and we didn’t,” Franklin Regional first-year coach Lukas Petersen said. “I loved our shape and how we played for the first 60 minutes. But after their goal, we kind of fell apart.”

Petersen, an assistant with the Pitt men’s team last season, said he was eager to coach his first Franklin Regional-Plum game.

“Credit to Plum, they had a better handle on the game,” Petersen said. “We won the ball in some dangerous places, but we needed more composure in the final third. We’re still learning how to do some things. It will take some time.”

The Mustangs managed an insurance score with 5:01 to play. After a tie-up around the far corner flag, Pittman came up with the ball and crossed in front to a waiting Tristan Ralph, who finished to make it 2-0.

Kolankowski said he couldn’t believe how open Ralph was. Pittman also was surprised at how the play unfolded.

“That’s probably the easiest goal Tristan is going to score all season,” Kolankowski said.

Pittman added: “When the ball came out, I was shocked to see him wide open. I just had to play it to him.”

Plum had a quality scoring chance late in the first half. Pittman sent a corner kick far post to Aldi Flowers, but his shot was clutched by Panthers keeper Aryan Selokar.

Danny Christafano ripped a shot from 20 yards early in the second half, but Owen Zalewski was there to keep it out of the net for Plum.

Christafano nearly tied it at 14:15 when he took a touch pass from Colton Hudson and flicked the ball quickly toward the net. But Zalewski secured it squarely into his chest to preserve the lead.

“That was a great save made on Danny’s shot,” Petersen said. “If that goes in, we’re maybe playing overtime.”

Selokar made several strong stops and finished with eight saves.

Zalewski had three saves.

“That’s the thing about goalkeeping,” Petersen said. “You can have a great game and make eight point-blank saves. But you can let just one in and lose the game.”

Franklin Regional didn’t lose its third game of the season last year until Oct. 19.

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

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