Westmoreland high school notebook: FR boys soccer not surprised by playoff run

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Saturday, October 27, 2018 | 4:57 PM


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Franklin Regional is making a historic run in boys soccer, but those around the program do not seem surprised.

This year’s Panthers, an assortment of players from all four classes, is one of those wait-until-they-get-together groups that coaches can spot miles away.

Coach Rand Hudson knew about the wide range of talent because he saw the boys kick it around at a young age. Their steady progression has been a slow simmer that still has not reached its boiling point.

“This team I have known since they were this big,” Hudson said, looking down and holding out a palm-down hand about even with his waist. “When I stepped away from high school coaching, I had most of the senior and junior class combined as a travel team.

“When they were 8, I’d would go to their parents and say, ‘Keep them playing. They look really good.’ We had them six seasons, and I think they lost three games total. Some of the bigger schools challenged us and said, ‘All these kids are from your school district? And they’re all the right age?’ I said, ‘Yes, they are.’ “

The Panthers, (16-0-1) seeded No. 1 in Class AAA, will take on No. 12 Thomas Jefferson, a team they beat twice during section play this season, at 8 p.m. Monday in a semifinal at Norwin.

Franklin Regional never has made it this far. But coaches and players almost bristle if they’re asked whether anything from this point on is gravy.

“We have seen this for a while … hoping this was going to be a big year and so far, so good,” Hudson said. “Did I think we would be undefeated and given up four goals on the season? That doesn’t happen very often. They want more. They are locked in and focused.”

Hudson said he didn’t learn until the end of last season that the Panthers were moving from Class AAAA to AAA. That was good news, but the coach, despite seeing some rivalries go away, thought the Panthers could still “have a big year in Quad-A.”

“We limit what teams do with the ball,” Hudson said. “I like our chances. We’re going to be a tough out for anybody.”

Another local contender

The Norwin boys soccer team also is chasing history.

After finally exorcising opening-round playoff demons with a 2-1 win over Peters Township in the quarterfinals, the Knights (16-2-1) are in the semifinals for the first time in eight years. The finals, however, have just about forgotten Norwin still has a team.

The No. 2-seeded Knights will take on No. 3 Upper St. Clair (12-3-2) in an attempt to make their first title-game appearance since 1979. Norwin never has won a WPIAL title in boys soccer. It lost to Shaler in that one trip nearly 40 years ago.

A wave of relief seemed to wash over Norwin players and coaches after the quarterfinal win. Norwin had dropped seven straight playoff games in the first round.

“I am walking on air,” coach Scott Schuchert said. “This is a confident group. As soon as they get a little bit of confidence in any game this year, the ball gets really quick one way. This is something they have wanted to achieve for many years now.

“When we got the bye, we were all excited. That’s the curse, but these boys were not satisfied. They wanted to get that win, legit.”

Knights senior standout Carter Breen thinks the release valve has been pulled.

“We knew we had to come out fast. … The momentum is going to carry on,” Breen said. “We’re going to keep it rolling.”

Football pairings

The WPIAL will announce football playoff matchups at 7 p.m. Monday at its annual pairings meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree.

Westmoreland teams in the postseason field are: Penn-Trafford, Franklin Regional and Latrobe in Class 5A; Greensburg Salem and Belle Vernon in 4A; Derry in 3A; and Jeannette and Monessen in A.

Games will begin Friday.

Penn-Trafford, Belle Vernon, Derry, Jeannette will play at home in their opening games.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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

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