Westmoreland high school football notebook: Anthony DiFalco follows brother’s lead
Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta sat down on the team bench with freshman Anthony DiFalco as the final minutes neared last Friday night at Latrobe.
With the score tied, 14-14, Botta calmly looked at his kicker and said, “You’ll win this game for us tonight.”
DiFalco didn’t flinch: “OK, coach.”
With 1:01 left, DiFalco sent a 27-yard field goal through the uprights, and the Panthers escaped with a 17-14 win.
Deja vu immediately crept in because the same thing happened last year, in Week 7, when then-senior Dom DeFalco connected from 37 yards with 2 seconds left to push Franklin Regional past Latrobe, 23-20.
“It’s pretty neat for it to happen like that,” Botta said. “I had someone say to me, just like last year, same kid and all. I said, ‘No, this is the little (DiFalco).’ ”
The little one has big potential.
Botta has been coaching for more than three decades and has seen his share of kickers. He said the younger DiFalco could be headed for the top tier.
“One of the best I’ve seen,” Botta said. “He kicked four or five in the end zone (for touchbacks).”
Dom DiFalco, now at Ohio Northen, was proud to see his brother become a hero, but he’s still big brother.
Dom was sure to point out his field goal was 10 yards farther and happened on homecoming night.
“It was neat to see him literally follow in my footsteps,” the elder DiFalco said. “I’ve taught him well, haven’t I? He may be able to brag, but I still had the better kick against Latrobe that’s for sure.”
Still a big game?
Penn-Trafford and McKeesport have played top-tier games over the years. Most years, their matchup comes with hype because both teams are usually ranked in the top five.
Penn-Trafford enters this week with a 1-2 record and is unranked as it gets set to travel to No. 3 McKeesport (3-0) in a Class 5A Big East clash. Other than Penn-Trafford’s inexperience in a number of positions, there is no reason to believe this can’t be another close game.
In 12 consecutive meetings since 2006, McKeesport has won seven of them, but Penn-Trafford has won five of the last seven. Five matchups have been decided by 10 points or fewer.
To anyone saying this game has lost its luster, Warriors coach John Ruane said, “They haven’t watched the games we have played against each other.”
Salopek meets Marino
Norwin junior quarterback Jack Salopek has a scholarship offer from Pitt. It remains to be seen if he will take it, but if he decided to join the Panthers, he knows which player he’ll try to emulate.
Salopek was invited to the Penn State-Pitt game last Saturday and got to meet one of his favorites, Hall of Famer Dan Marino, who shook hands and posed for photos with prospects.
“It was awesome,” Salopek said. “A lot of people say my throwing motion and the way I lock my front leg out is just the same as Marino did. I thought it was really impressive that all the fans came out even with the bad weather.”
Ligonier Valley has a week off after it received a forfeit from undermanned Saltsburg, which had just 17 healthy players after its last game. It’s the second time in two years the Rams had a game canceled for circumstances they could not control. In 2016, Blairsville forfeited after the death of two students.
Rams senior receiver Aaron Tutino injured his ankle and tweaked his knee in last week’s game against United, so he has more time to heal. Tutino and his teammates, however, would rather play a game than practice.
“Obviously, I’m glad I get to rest instead of hurrying back, but we don’t like the fact that they took a game from us at all,” Tutino said. Ligonier Valley is 4-0.
Derry (3-0) moved up a spot to No. 4 in this week’s TribLive HSSN Class 4A rankings. The Trojans continue to be ranked thanks to an upsurge that started two-plus seasons ago.
They have won 23 of their last 26 games. That run includes a 15-game winning streak at home. Their last loss at Trojans Stadium was Sept. 25, 2015, against Laurel, 40-0.
In a rush
Yough senior Dustin Shoaf is out to defend his WPIAL regular-season rushing title, but he is in second place after three weeks, trailing Keystone Oaks’ Michael Daure.
Shoaf has 642 yards and seven touchdowns and is averaging 10.4 yards per carry. Daure, after a 388-yard performance against Hopewell, has 817 yards and 15 TDs.
Shoaf has a sizable lead in the county. Valley’s Deonte Ross is next with 435 yards, followed by Belle Vernon’s Mason Pascoe (371) and Southmoreland’s Ronnie Robinson (347).
Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BillBeckner.