Westmoreland boys soccer notebook: Unbeaten Belle Vernon gets record-setting performances

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020 | 4:38 PM


Belle Vernon’s weekend shutout of rival Ringgold allowed a couple of players to move up in the Belle Vernon record book.

Class 3A No. 4 Belle Vernon (10-0) remained undefeated with a 3-0 win Saturday over the Rams. In the process, junior forward Daniel Sassak scored the 50th goal of his career, moving him into fifth place all-time in Leopards’ history.

Markello Apodiakos (89 goals, 2015-18), Mike Posey (69, 1986-89), TJ Mattey (55, 1991-94) and Mark Tomich (53, 2006-10) are ahead of Sassak.

Senior goalkeeper T.J. Watson, meantime, posted his 16th clean sheet to tie him for third with Andrew Gagliardi, who played from 2005-08.

Ian Connolly (2003-06) has 18 shutouts for second place and Garrett McLaughlin (2008-11) leads with 35.

Belle Vernon coach Rob Miele said Sassak and Watson put in extra time to improve their play.

“Both have been integral parts of our success the last two seasons” Miele said. “You could easily argue we wouldn’t have had the success we’ve had without them being on top of their game.

“They both deserve everything they have and will accomplish.”

Miele said he knew Sassak would have a knack for putting goal in the net.

“Daniel had the pedigree coming into his freshman year,” Miele said. “There was a lot of chatter about his goal-scoring ability at the middle school level, but you always take that with a grain of salt since the middle school game is very wide open and the range of ability in teams is pretty lengthy.”

Watson, the coach said, joined the fray when former goalkeeper Cameron Guess, now a kicker on the Pitt football team, chose football and decided not to play his junior season.

“I think being thrust into that starting role as a sophomore … was an added bonus,” Miele said. “He got a lot of experience that season at the varsity level that he wasn’t expected to get.”

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Senior pictures

Franklin Regional’s eight seniors have experienced success at every level, which explains why the Panthers are so good again this season.

The two-time defending WPIAL 3A champs have big-game experience, and it shows.

The seniors have played on back-to-back championship travel teams, went undefeated two years in a row in middle school, played for state cup championships and pulled in personal accolades.

They have become a clenched fist as a unit, even dealing with off-the-field adversity together. Three team parents lost battles with cancer over a span of 18 months.

Players have banned together to work fundraisers to help families and bring awareness to the tragic situation.

“We came together as a team in 7th grade,” senior Blake Cooper said. “We had no idea that three of our soccer parents would be taken from us due to this horrible disease. We will keep raising money until they find a cure.”

With the WPIAL playoffs approaching, the Panthers seniors hope to add a third title to the mantle, play for lost ones and maybe carry the momentum into the state playoffs again.

“We cannot wait to see what we do together, one last time,” Zach Lorenz said.

Junior Anthony DiFalco gets most of the offensive attention at Franklin Regional and rightly so. The slick-kicking forward has 20 goals and 10 assists to lead the Panthers, but Cooper quietly has worked the midfield with 14 goals and eight assists for the high-powered Panthers, who have seven shutouts in 10 games.

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Rankings

There were some changes at the top of the boys Class 4A and 3A rankings this week.

North Allegheny leapfrogged previous No. 1 Butler — and Seneca Valley — to take the top spot in 4A. Franklin Regional, meanwhile, dropped to No. 2 in Class 3A as unbeaten Mars took over No. 1. Franklin Regional lost to No. 3 Plum, 2-1, which snapped its 46-game unbeaten streak in the regular season.

Norwin moved up to No. 3 in 4A, and GCC stayed No. 1 in Class A.

Norwin (7-0-1), Belle Vernon (10-0) and GCC (7-1) began the week with perfect records.

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Burrell debuts turf

Burrell played its first soccer game on the new artificial turf at Buccaneer Stadium in Lower Burell and the Bucs made sure it was a convincing debut.

Burrell blanked Derry, 10-0, as Jake Guerrini had a hat trick and Ian Smola and Tajean DeGore scored twice.

•••

A-Rod shines

Southmoreland (4-6) has had tough luck this season with four, one-goal losses, but the Scotties have one of the better goal-scorers in Class 2A in senior Andrew Rodriguez.

He had a four-goal game against McGuffey and added a hat trick when Southmoreland beat Yough.

Rodriguez, who is 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, has 10 goals this season. He is getting minimal college attention but that could change.

He also kicks for the football team.

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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