Franklin Regional boys soccer regains momentum with victory over Hempfield
Franklin Regional recently fell from the top-five in the boys soccer rankings.
But the Panthers continue to make a strong case that they still belong among Class AAAA’s best.
The team built a three-goal lead by halftime and held off pesky Hempfield, 4-1, in a Section 4 game Tuesday night at Panthers Stadium in Murrysville.
Franklin Regional (10-2, 7-2) has won six of its last seven games. The loss came against No. 5 Penn-Trafford, 2-1, that bumped it from the rankings.
“The kids talk about the rankings. They asked me if I saw that we were out of the top five,” Panthers coach Rand Hudson said. “None of that really matters until the end.”
Hempfield (3-7-1, 1-7-1), which lost 2-1 to Franklin Regional in the teams’ first meeting, had just beaten Norwin, 3-2.
“We were coming off the big win with Norwin, and I think we came in overconfident,” Hempfield coach Jason Demko said. “We came out a lot slower and sat back. I was disappointed that we did that.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead just four minutes in when senior forward Dom DiFalco’s second-chance shot turned into a cross pass instead. Senior midfielder Zach Guidry was there to bury a shot into the back corner of the net.
That made Hempfield recoil its pressure defense, and the Panthers had more room to operate.
“We talked about their pressure and what we’d do against it,” Hudson said. “I think once we got that first goal, they kind of backed off.”
In the 13th minute, junior Matt Kimmich timed a perfect, 20-yard cross to junior midfielder Auston Kranick, who retrieved it in stride and scooted a shot past Spartans sophomore goalie Austin Midlik.
“That was such a perfect play,” Hudson said.
Franklin Regional uses balance, with several scorers with four or more goals this season. That trend continued.
Five minutes later, with the ball decisively on their side of the field, the Panthers scored again to make it 3-0. DiFalco came set just inside the 10-yard line and went top-right for the goal.
Hempfield did not have a shot in the first half. Franklin Regional had 28 for the game.
“We played a lot more like individuals than a team tonight,” Demko said.
In the second half, Hempfield had a shot redirected out of bounds on a hustle play by Panthers senior defender Jake Trapanotto.
Midlik denied DeFalco a penalty kick in the 58th minute, taking the hard-kicked shot off his chest. Midlik finished with nine saves.
“He really played well tonight,” Demko said.
Franklin Regional also came up empty on a free kick from the 25-yard line at the 20:50 mark.
Hempfield’s goal came in the 74th minute on a direct kick by senior defender Ben Midlik.
Junior Zack Snider capped the scoring for the Panthers after he dribbled up the left sideline and fired with 1:42 remaining.
Franklin Regionl hopes to take momentum into the stretch run.
“We know we have two more section games left, and we control our own destiny. I asked the kids, how do you eat an elephant? They all looked at me like I was crazy,” Hudson said. “I told them, one bite at a time.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.