Franklin Regional boys soccer team hopes growing pains pay off
The Franklin Regional boys soccer team went through some expected growing pains during the first half of the season.
Entering the second half, the Panthers hope the experience gained from those rocky moments pays off with a playoff bid.
Franklin Regional (4-2-1, 3-2-1) began the week in a fourth-place tie with Hempfield in Section 1-AAA. With five teams competing for three playoff spots, the Panthers have some work to do during the second half to make the postseason for the third straight year.
“I hope it helps us focus a little more,” Franklin Regional coach Ryan Montgomery said. “Last year, when we made an impressive run, we were in a different situation where we kind of fell off a little bit after a hot start. This year, we struggled (early) as we may expect, but hopefully we're clicking at the right time.”
Montgomery said he expected some of the early problems because of his team's youth, particularly on the back end. Defenders Nick Bolkovac and Austin Jaliela graduated from last season's second-place team, leaving younger players to fill the void.
While the defense had its share of growing pains early on, Montgomery said he was pleased with the unit's improvement.
“They have come on, they've played well (and) they found themselves,” Montgomery said. “We found a group that is very solid back there. We're pleased with going on in that regard.”
In particular, Montgomery praised the work of outside backs Randy Duke, a senior, and Andrew Mastovich, a sophomore.
“(They're) two guys that are really above and beyond what we expected,” he said. “We knew that we'd get good things from them, but they've further exceeded our expectations.”
In the midfield, junior Ryan Watson has “come into his own,” Montgomery said, and sophomore James Young is becoming a “superstar player” as a scorer for the Panthers.
The Panthers began the second half of the season with a game Tuesday at Latrobe. The contest ended past the deadline for this week's edition.
Franklin Regional will host Connellsville at 8 p.m. Thursday before a contest at Penn-Trafford on Saturday and home meetings with Plum and Norwin on Monday and Tuesday.
Montgomery said it would be a pivotal eight days for the Panthers.
“We have to overcome the bad luck issues (in the second half),” Montgomery said. “Hopefully, now we've gotten a bad taste of things that can happen to you — a bad call, a mistake — and hopefully we're prepared to overcome those things and get rewarded for our hard work. We've created an uncountable amount of scoring chances, and now we've just got to get rewarded for it.”