Fox Chapel wins
O'HARA TOWNSHIP: Off was the operative word during Fox Chapel's 3-0 win over Penn-Trafford in the WPIAL Class AAA boys soccer quarterfinals Thursday night at the James M. Burk Athletic Facility.
First, the shirts of a half-dozen male fans in the Fox Chapel student section came off. The fanatics braved the sub-40 degree weather and bared their painted chests. They ran laps around the stadium when the Foxes scored.
Next, it was the stadium lights. Just one half hour into the game, the lights flickered, then went off, leaving fans and players in almost total darkness. The lights came on about 15 minutes later and the game continued with Fox Chapel ahead, 2-0.
The last thing to come off was the most important for Fox Chapel. When the final buzzer sounded, the pressure of having to open the playoffs as the hands-down favorite to win WPIAL and PIAA titles, was lifted slightly from the Foxes' shoulders.
"This was a big one for us to get that first playoff game out of the way," said Foxes coach Mark Perry. "We can kind of breathe a sigh of relief. Getting the goals early was very important for us tonight. This was the big one."
Fox Chapel (19-0) picked up where it left off following a dominant regular season and showed no ill effects following a first-round bye that kept the team out of game action for 12 days.
Fox Chapel, which is ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL by the Tribune-Review Media Service and No. 2 in the country -- yes, the country -- by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, will play Upper St. Clair (18-3-1) for the third consecutive year in the semifinals Monday or Tuesday at a time and site to be determined.
Upper St. Clair defeated Pine-Richland, 2-0, on Thursday.
Goalkeeper Ted Sheedy was superb in the Foxes' 15th shutout of the season, which also clinched a spot in the PIAA playoffs.
Sheedy made six saves, including three in the second half that left the Warriors dumbfounded.
Fox Chapel outshot Penn-Trafford, 10-6.
The Foxes had a 2-0 lead just 7:38 into the game on goals by senior midfielder Adam Janosko and sophomore midfielder Tim Dodson.
Janosko skipped the ball off the turf and past Warriors goalkeeper Corey Muro in the seventh minute.
Less than two minutes later, Dodson lasered a shot past Muro from just inside the 15-yard line. Muro extended his arms, but could not get to the ball as it curled into the back-right side of the net.
The hot start was halted by the delay.
"When the lights went out, we lost a little bit of our edge," Perry said. "But I thought we came out very sharp."
There has been no power shortage in the Foxes' offense. They have outscored the opposition, 70-4, and have not allowed a goal since Sept. 27 against Gateway.
Following the delay, players had 10 minutes to warm up again. It took the Foxes less time to add another goal. Senior forward Steve Warden made it 3-0 when he scored in close with 11:37 left in the first half.
Leading scorer E.J. McCormick almost gave the Foxes a four-goal halftime lead but his line-drive smacked the right post in the 39th minutes.
Perry thought his team was sluggish in the second half, while Penn-Trafford coach Dave Paterline thought his team played well after some halftime adjustments.
"I thought we came out strong in the second half," Paterline said. "They showed a lot of heart."
Penn-Trafford had a tough enough time preparing for the Foxes. Now, the Warriors (17-5) have to root for them.
The Warriors need Fox Chapel to win the WPIAL title for the Warriors to qualify for the PIAA playoffs.
"They're a good team, they play very smart," Paterline said. "They don't have a lot of weaknesses. You can't allow them to score early like that. For us, it was too much to overcome."