Westmoreland County boys soccer notebook: New coach putting stamp on Franklin Regional program

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Wednesday, August 31, 2022 | 7:15 PM


Hired very late in the process, Lukas Petersen is still getting to know his players, implement the basics of his system and make the Franklin Regional boys soccer program his own.

He had been with the team for less than a month when the season opened Aug. 26.

The No. 2-ranked Panthers (1-2, 1-0) lost both games in the Pine-Richland Tournament, falling to Pine-Richland (1-0) and Moon (3-2).

They opened Section 4-3A play with a 9-0 win at Obama Academy and host No. 1 Plum (2-0-1) Thursday night.

Franklin Regional had not started 0-2 since 2006.

“It might be a slow start to the season while the players learn what my expectations are,” said Petersen, a former Pitt men’s soccer assistant. “I see this as a great opportunity to put my personal stamp on something, to have a team of my own. I want to build a lasting program from the youth level up, not something that drops off every two or four years. It’s going to take some time.”

Of course, the program already was on firm ground when he took over Aug. 1 — a few days after his wedding in his native Vermont.

Former coach Thomas Louisy resigned after one season for family reasons. Rand Hudson, the highly successful coach before Louisy, suggested Petersen apply for the opening last year.

While the district instead went with Louisy, it must have left Petersen’s resume on top of the pile.

Louisy resigned suddenly in June, and Petersen got a call soon after.

The current players worked out primarily on their own while they waited for a new coach to come in.

“I want to make a few tweaks to the way we play,” Petersen said. “There are some things I would like to change. I want us to be more tactfully driven. We need to change the way we do certain things, such as conditioning, warm-ups and style.”

Franklin Regional went 17-5 last year and reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals in Class 3A. The Panthers won WPIAL championships in 2018 and ‘19.

Program all-timer Anthony DiFalco (118 career goals), a three-time All-American, graduated and is now playing at Duquesne.

With DiFalco gone, the formation and approach will change.

“AD was a great player,” said Petersen, who has coached in the Allegheny Force Football Club but never at the high school level. “But football is a team game and you need all 11 guys working together toward the same goal. There is an opportunity for some guys to shine who were maybe under his shadow.”

The 32-year-old Petersen, who coached a number of his current players in cup soccer, played collegiately at Vermont and Hobart and William Smith before a short professional stint in Austria, where he shares dual-citizenship with the U.S. He speaks fluent German.

Petersen said he plans to build around a sound defensive core in junior Dom Kaforey, senior Jake Kimmich and senior Jake Zimmerman, with senior Sam Dawson as a holding mid alongside senior Colton Hudson.

Sophomore Joey Bayne and the Christafano brothers, Billy (senior) and Danny (sophomore) also adding to the attack.

Sophomore Mitchell Murray also figures to play a key role.

Kimmich and Hudson were All-WPIAL selections last season.

Hudson had 18 goals and 17 assists.

Petersen also hopes to build depth in a team heavy with upperclassmen.

“In the past, it seemed like we had a tough time breaking teams down in the final third,” Petersen said. “We need to work on that.

“We need to learn to read the game. I’m not talking about death by 1,000 passes, but we need to have patience in how we play.”

There is competition at goalkeeper between junior Aryan Selokar and sophomore Noah Walker. Selokar shined in last year’s postseason.

“It’s good for these guys to compete,” Petersen said. “It’s a good problem to have. There is no growth without conflict.”

Petersen, who works as a supply chain specialist at UPMC Shadyside, kept Louisy’s assistants on staff and added Penn-Trafford grad Trevor Momeyer, who played at Seton Hill.

Playing for keeps

Norwin has some key spots to fill this season, but veteran coach Scott Schuchert likes the competition factor — and he loves his junior class.

Perhaps the most watched battle in preseason practice was at goalkeeper, where senior Kaleb Eddy and junior Anthony Scalise were competing for the starting nod.

“They played behind Andy Yanez,” Schuchert said. “Now they have a chance to show what they can do. It’s good for them to compete like this. I have learned the importance of having two goalkeepers ready to go.”

Schuchert said the junior class, which could go a long way in keeping Norwin among the contenders in Class 4A — for the next two seasons.

“That class is unreal,” he said. “They can catapult us forward.”

Double duty

Mt. Pleasant senior Robbie Labuda is double-rostered this fall in football and soccer, but he isn’t a kicker. Labuda is a running back and midfielder who has already had an impact in both sports.

Last Friday night, he rushed for 154 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 56-35 loss to Greensburg Central Catholic. He had a 93-yard kickoff return and a 74-yard scoring run.

On Tuesday, he scored a goal for the Vikings in a 3-1 win over Yough.

Rankings

Three Westmoreland County teams made the TribLive HSSN preseason rankings.

Perennial power Greensburg Central Catholic is No. 2 in Class A behind rival Winchester Thurston, while Franklin Regional and Kiski Area are Nos. 2 and 3 in Class 3A, which looks like one of the hardest classes to figure this season.

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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