Cummings' 5 goals lead West Allegheny to PIAA 1st-round win
Mike Cummings doesn't mind the PIAA playoffs.
Scoring five goals in a dominant, first-round win tends to have that effect on a player.
Cummings, a junior forward, scored five goals, including four in the first half, to power the West Allegheny boys soccer team to a 6-0 victory over District 10 runner-up Warren in the Indians' PIAA Class AA opener at Moon High School.
“It's a big occasion,” Cummings said. “You have to step up. We're trying to win a state championship. You have to play every game like it's your last and score every opportunity you have because you never know when you're going to get that next one.”
It's the eighth time this season West Allegheny (19-0-3) has scored four or more goals in a game. The Indians, who won a state playoff game for the first time since 2009, haven't been scored upon since a 1-1 tie against WPIAL runner-up South Fayette on Oct. 10.
West Allegheny advanced to the quarterfinals and will play Oley Valley — a 4-0 winner over Philipsburg-Osceola, the Lynx' first state playoff victory since 1995 — Saturday, site and time to be determined.
“We want the next big trophy,” said West Allegheny coach Kevin Amos, who enlisted the motivational speaking abilities of football coach Bob Palko prior to this one.
The Indians had powered their way to a first-ever WPIAL title by relying on defense, outscoring Mt. Pleasant, Deer Lakes, Shady Side Academy and South Fayette by a combined score of 9-0.
“We played our game,” Cummings said. “We can beat anyone if we play our game.”
But facing a Warren (7-12-1) team that dropped its first seven contests of the season and a goalkeeper — Clark Eason — who faced 35 shots in the District 10 final last week, Cummings wasted little time igniting West Allegheny's offense.
Whether it was making runs or slicing through Warren's defense with a powerful drive, Cummings had his way with the Dragons Tuesday night.
“With his speed, he can get past anyone,” junior forward Collin Wurst said of Cummings. “He has great finishing ability. He's a great asset to the forwards and for the midfielders to get balls up top to him.”
Playing a through ball from Nick Jaroszynski in the ninth minute, Cummings slid a shot to the left and tucked it inside the near post for a 1-0 lead. The advantage grew to 2-0 when Cummings scored unassisted on a high, driven shot from about 10 yards in the 11th minute.
Wurst's blast from about 23 yards in the 31st minute made it 3-0, 4-0 once Cummings completed the hat trick a minute later.
“Once you get three or four goals on a team early, they start to not play to their ability,” Cummings said.
Speed was what did it, Amos said.
“(Warren) probably didn't see that level of speed throughout the whole year,” Amos said. “We're bringing speed all the time. It's really shocking to teams that we play, how much overall team speed we have.”
Cummings got his fourth of the half by hanging by the near post, waiting for a cross and crushing it with his right foot, then his fifth midway through the second half.
“He's missed his share through the year,” Amos joked. “It won't help his shooting percentage any, but it's definitely nice to have.”