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Franklin Regional's Roberge enjoys leadership role as team's center-mid

| Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Jake Roberge goes up over Latrobe's D.J. Kissel for a header during their Sept. 3, 2013, match in Murrysville.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Serra Catholic senior midfielder Nick Likar works out Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013.

Franklin Regional soccer player Jake Roberge does more than accept responsibility: He embraces it.

Invites it, even.

Roberge, a junior, is one of the captains for the Franklin Regional boys soccer team, which entered the week 3-0.

More than just the captaincy, however, Roberge shoulders the load of playing center-midfielder — the position that most resembles a quarterback on the soccer field. The responsibility is familiar to Roberge, who also plays point guard in basketball.

“I definitely want the weight on my shoulders,” said Roberge, who also kicks for the Franklin Regional football team. “As my coach says and as I say, I like being the quarterback on the team. That's what it is in basketball — the point guard is the quarterback, and center-mid is kind of the quarterback of the team (in soccer). My teammates help me out a lot, but that's something I definitely like to do.”

The center-midfielder traditionally bears a heavy offensive and defensive load in soccer, and Roberge is no exception. He expects to play a heavier defensive role in Franklin Regional's game against defending section champion Kiski Area on Sept. 17. In other games, he's the leader of the Panthers' offensive attack.

“Jake's such a fantastic athlete that he can cover so much ground in the midfield,” Franklin Regional coach Ryan Montgomery said. “It's just unparalleled. Even guys from the games that we've played, they keep saying, ‘Geez, (No.) 14 is just everywhere.' That's a big part of it. You put him in the midfield and let his athleticism take the game over.”

Montgomery said in addition to Roberge's speed, strength and ability to read defenses, the junior also is one of the best leapers in the WPIAL — a trait that helps both offensively and defensively.

“(The goal is to) get to every ball in the air,” Roberge said. “Anything less than that is kind of a disappointment.”

Roberge helped lead Franklin Regional to a second-place finish in Section 1-AAA last season. The Panthers bowed out of the WPIAL playoffs with a 1-0 loss to eventual champion Canon-McMillan in the quarterfinals. Roberge was named to the Class AAA all-WPIAL team, the only sophomore to achieve the honor.

This season, Roberge is targeting bigger things. The Panthers are led by a large crop of juniors and are seeking a section championship — at the very least — in their second season in 1-AAA.

“There's definitely some good senior leadership as well, but I'd say the junior class is really going to have to step up this year,” Roberge said. “These next two years should be our years. But we want that. We want the pressure on our backs.”

Roberge also plays for Beadling Soccer Club. He said the experience of playing against college recruits every game helped him improve.

While he still has another year remaining at Franklin Regional after this one, Roberge is considering a college career of his own. His brother, Michael, is a freshman soccer player at Northwestern.

“I want to go to a good academic school,” he said. “My parents have drilled that into me since the day I was born: use sports to get into a good academic school. If the right fit pops up (with Division I), that's definitely the goal.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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