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Late goal downs Franklin Regional boys soccer

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Franklin Regional goalkeeper Chris Ralph makes a save during the first half of a WPIAL AAA quarterfinal against Canon-McMillan Thursday October 25, 2012 at North Allegheny. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Franklin Regional's James Young controls the ball during the first half of a WPIAL AAA quarterfinal against Canon-McMillan Thursday October 25, 2012 at North Allegheny. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Franklin Regional's boys soccer team made a habit all year of winning one-goal games, but the one it didn't win ended its season.

Eddie Hartman scored for Canon-McMillan with just 2:35 remaining in the game, which gave the 13th-seeded Big Macs a 1-0 win over No. 12 Franklin Regional in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals on Thursday at North Allegheny High School.

The defeat was the first one-goal loss of the season for Franklin Regional (13-4-2), which got eight of its 13 wins by a one-goal margin. Canon-Mac (16-4-0) advanced to face No. 1 Peters Township in the semifinals.

“All the credit in the world to (Canon-Mac),” Franklin Regional coach Ryan Montgomery said. “Those guys rose to the challenge. They played a fast tempo, and they're extremely organized, and they let their athletes make a play.”

Hartman's 78th-minute goal came as the result of a Panthers' turnover in their own half. The Big Macs played the ball forward to Hartman, a converted defender, on the left wing behind the FR defense.

Hartman cut into the box toward the goal, where Panthers defender Jake Roberge slid into a challenge. Robgere got a piece of the ball, but not enough to prevent it from popping over him and right back into the path of Hartman, who drove in the winning goal from 10 yards away.

“We couldn't find a way to stay organized. Their pressure finally got to us, and we cracked,” Montgomery said.

With so little time to respond, the Panthers pushed everything forward. But apart from a long pass forward on which Canon-Mac goalie James Hathaway beat Roberge to the ball before a collision, FR was unable to create a final scoring chance.

Canon-Mac was a strong opponent for the Panthers, and the Big Macs' seed wasn't truly indicative of the team's season. While Canon-Mac was a third-place team in its section, all four of its losses came to two section opponents, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair, that also are in the WPIAL semifinals.

Losing to a team of that quality, Montgomery said, is nothing to be ashamed of, especially for a team that rebounded from missing the playoffs in 2011 to coming one win short of a section title this year.

“It was a special season for us, and when you run into a team of this caliber, we know they're much better than their ranking,” Montgomery said. “It stinks to go out the way we did, but these guys have a lot to be proud of.”

Franklin Regional did have chances of its own to score, especially in the latter parts of the first half, when the Panthers had their best run of play.

With less than five minutes before halftime, Roberge swung a cross in from the right side that found Danny Ferriero on the back post at the top of the 6-yard box. The Big Macs defense closed quickly, however, and blocked away the shot on the Panthers' best chance yet.

Blake Buccille also tried to whip in a cross from the right with James Young as a target, but the Big Macs were the first to the ball.

Canon-Mac's clearance was poor, and the ball fell to the feet of Brent Velasquez, whose hard shot from 25 yards away skipped just to the left of the goal.

Chances in the second half were limited mostly to shots from distance, in large part because of the control that Hathaway and FR goalie Chris Ralph kept over their respective boxes.

Play shifted in Canon-Mac's favor over the final 20 minutes, but it appeared the Panthers would make it to overtime before the sudden turn that produced Hartman's goal.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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