Team effort helped Franklin Regional secure 1st WPIAL golf title

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Sunday, October 25, 2020 | 11:01 AM


A statistics teacher who doubles as the boys golf coach at Franklin Regional, Jeff Traphagen often looks at life through numbers.

At the WPIAL Class AAA team golf championship, he threw around the term “standard deviation” a lot.

“We were between 78 and 85; Our standard deviation was better than the other teams’,” Traphagen said. “If that happened, we knew that gave us a chance to win.”

That it did.

The Panthers were a model of consistency in their first WPIAL finals appearance since 2003, stringing together five rounds of 85 or better to capture their first championship Oct. 15 at Cedarbrook Golf Course in Rostraver.

“I woke up this morning and I said to my wife, ‘We’re playing for a WPIAL championship today,’” Traphagen said. “It hit me what we were about to do.”

And that was to make team history.

Senior Michael Wareham carded a 6-over-par 78 to set the pace early for the Panthers. Senior Chuck Tragesser, junior Zach Abdallah and sophomore Nolan Shilling matched 82s and junior Jeff Anderchak and senior Luke Kimmich added 85s (one was thrown out).

It added up to 409, a total that came in three shots better than defending champion Fox Chapel.

Franklin Regional had not even been to the playoffs since 2015. It had close calls and near-misses, but this was the ultimate breakthrough for a team that patiently waited its turn to join the WPIAL elite.

Foxes coach Bryan Deal brought last year’s trophy to the finals since the WPIAL did not have one available for this year’s event. He wanted the winner to be able to pose for photos.

Franklin Regional gathered around it after the results were tallied.

“Everyone played for the team, not for themselves,” said Wareham, who said his 78 was like a 74 given the conditions. “We thought coming into the finals, this was our best chance to win.”

The Panthers are the first Westmoreland County team to win a WPIAL boys golf title since Latrobe in 2009.

Franklin Regional’s best finish in the WPIAL was second, twice, in 1985 and ‘83.

Playing in a revamped Section 4 that did not include perennial power and returning PIAA champion Fox Chapel helped clear the road, in a way. But the Panthers performed each match, showing home-course advantage at Meadowink Golf Course in Murrysville, while also posting low numbers at challenging country club venues around the section.

“We have four guys who have been playing for four years,” Traphagen said. “They have put in the time. They took their lumps. They really deserve this. This is the deepest team we’ve ever had.”

Traphagen, who has been with the program since 2002 when he was the junior varsity coach, is perhaps the humblest coach in Class AAA. He had to have his arm twisted to pose for photos with the players.

“It’s about the kids,” he said. “It’s their championship.”

Deal said Franklin Regional deserved to win the title.

“They have been competitive for so long, they have just been in such a tough section,” Deal said. “I mean look, we had what, three state champions in the last four years?

“I’m really happy for Trap. This is very well deserved.”

The Panthers shot 385 in the semifinal tournament at Champion Lakes in Bolivar.

Abdallah shot 73, Wareham 74, Luke Kimmich had 77, Tragesser 78 and Anderchak 83 for the Panthers, who finished one stroke behind Central Catholic — perhaps a precursor to what was about to come in the finals.

“They continue to believe that we belong,” Traphagen said.

The Panthers moved on to the PIAA team championship Oct. 26 at Heritage Hills Resort in York.

They had never been to the state tournament, although Palmer Jackson won an individual state title in 2018 at Heritage Hills.

Wareham and Tragesser also qualified for the PIAA individual finals Oct. 20 at Heritage Hills. Tragesser finished second after shooting 3-under 68. Wareham shot 4-over 75 to finish tied for 20th.

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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