Westmoreland County boys soccer preview: New challenges for Jeannette, Franklin Regional

Thursday, August 25, 2022 | 12:01 AM

Jeannette is not necessarily running from anyone by playing up in classification in boys soccer. The way the Jayhawks see it, the move is about perspective and proper placement.

Jeannette is a Class A school according to enrollment numbers, but it chose to play in Class 2A to be with more public schools.

“There had been talk by players and parents even before I started coaching that Jeannette needed to move up to 2A because we were the only public school in a division full of private schools,” Jayhawks coach Art Cicero said. “That, coupled with the fact that after making playoffs last year, we wanted to challenge ourselves by playing in a higher division with brand new opponents.”

Fair enough.

One might say the team earned that right: Jeannette made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in program history and fell to eventual champion Winchester Thurston, 5-0.

The season opens Friday, and the team’s new section will have some larger schools — Deer Lakes, Derry, Freeport, Greensburg Salem, Knoch, Leechburg, Shady Side Academy — but the Jayhawks are determined to find their way.

Greensburg Salem dropped from 3A.

It returns All-WPIAL standout junior Jordan Taylor, who scored a school-record 45 goals last season. Junior midfielder Austin Emery is another key player.

“Honestly, it’s a little nerve-racking,” Jeannette senior goalkeeper Mitchell Steele III said. “We really have no clue about some of these teams. It’s a mental thing, I guess.

“Either way, we feel like we have the talent to get to the playoffs and make a run.”

Franklin Regional has been one of the elite programs in the WPIAL over the last five years, but the Panthers have a new coach this fall in Lukas Petersen.

A former Pitt men’s soccer assistant who played professionally in Austria, Petersen took over rather late in the game — Aug. 1 — after Thomas Louisy resigned in June for family reasons.

The Panthers have to be in the title conversation again in Class 3A despite the graduation of superstar forward Anthony DiFalco, the three-time All-American who is at Duquesne.

“The first season is always a bit challenging,” Petersen said. “I am coming into an already successful program, but I also want to put my mark on it. I expect to create a strong team chemistry and help prepare these young men for success on and off the pitch. The boys and I are still getting to know each other. Not allowing complacency to set in and forming a strong and positive team dynamic will be crucial in maintaining the success this program has had in the past.”

Senior leaders Colton Hudson and Jake Kimmich return for the Panthers, along with junior goalkeeper Aryan Selokar, who was solid in last year’s postseason as the Panthers (17-5) reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals.

“I have full confidence in our new coach, and I think that he will bring the best out of every player on the team,” said Hudson, who had 18 goals and 17 assists last season. “And although Anthony was obviously a huge loss to the program, I feel that we have the players to step up this year and fill in that loss.”

Several other local teams also moved to new classes, only they went the opposite direction of Jeannette.

Penn-Trafford and Latrobe are now in Class 3A, in the same section as Franklin Regional. Belle Vernon went from 3A to 2A, and Burrell and Ligonier Valley dropped to Class A.

Kiski Area is another team to watch in 3A after it reached the WPIAL quarterfinals and gave Franklin Regional a game (6-4).

Maddox Anderson, Anders Bordoy and Nathaniel Coleman will make the Cavaliers go.

Plum is expected to be one of the teams to beat in 3A.

No shocker here in Class A: Greensburg Central Catholic has the talent to make another run.

The Centurions, the WPIAL runner-up to Winchester Thurston last season, bring back seniors Carlo Denis and Kyler Miller, as well as sophomore Jackson Vacanti, all scoring threats. Denis has 91 career goals after scoring 29 as a junior. Miller had 18 goals and 16 assists.

Mt. Pleasant and Yough are now in Section 2-2A with Belle Vernon and Southmoreland.

Mt. Pleasant has a nice junior all-section tandem in Chase McCoy and Luke Rivardo.

Yough’s new coach is Ron Dushack, who was an assistant under former coach Dave Vilchek. Senior Joe Obeldobel, a 26-goal scorer last season, is one of the top players in the class.

Senior Owen McDermott, the brother of former Greensburg Central Catholic two-sport standout and Seton Hill baseball standout Neal McDermott, leads Leechburg.

Class 4A will have 16 teams covering two sections. Norwin will build around junior defender Owen Christopher. The Knights have to replace a solid senior unit.

Valley opted out of a WPIAL schedule this season.

Players to watch

Maddox Anderson, Sr., Kiski Area

Anders Bordoy, Sr., Kiski Area

Ethan Banks, Sr., Latrobe

Owen Christopher, Jr., Norwin

Nathaniel Coleman, Sr., Kiski Area

Carlo Denis, Sr., Greensburg CC

Austin Emery, Jr., Jeannette

Colton Hudson, Sr., Franklin Regional

Jason Ireland, Jr., Burrell

Jake Kimmich, Sr., Franklin Regional

Chase McCloy, Jr., Mt. Pleasant

Kyler Miller, Sr., Greensburg CC

Joe Obeldobel, Sr., Yough

Brady Paliscak, Sr., Penn-Trafford

Luke Rivardo, Jr., Mt. Pleasant

Aryan Selokar, Jr., GK, Franklin Regional

Jordan Taylor, Jr., Jeannette

Jackson Vacanti, So., Greensburg CC

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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