HEIDELBERG – The trend continues in WPIAL Class AAA boys soccer.
Two teams from Section 5 will meet in the WPIAL championship game for the second year in a row, and for the sixth time in 13 years.
Peters Township scored two goals in first 15 minutes Monday night, and Nico Mastrangelo had a hat trick, as the Indians defeated rival Canon-McMillan 4-0 in the semifinals at Chartiers Valley High School.
The Big Macs defeated Peters Township on Halloween night last season in the semifinals and Upper St. Clair for the title.
The Indians avoided a repeat of the tough 2-1 loss and advances to their third WPIAL finals appearance in four seasons.
“(They) played their guts out to win this game,” Peters Township head coach Bob Dyer said. “We talked about what we wanted to do and counted on that emotion being there. They brought that. For the majority of the game, we were the better team.”
Peters Township (16-3-2) will face Upper St. Clair, a 6-0 winner over Bethel Park, in the other semifinal. USC defeated the Indians twice this season, 4-3 Sept. 21 and 6-1 Oct. 10. After allowing five goals off set pieces int he latter matchup, Dyer believes the Indians’ adjustments will yield a different result.
Canon-McMillan (16-3-2) allowed its first goal of the WPIAL playoffs in the 10th minute when Peters Township sophomore midfielder Matt Massucci culminated the Indians’ extended offensive pressure by beating Big Macs goalkeeper Christian Snatchko. Massucci’s low shot beat the sophomore keeper on the far side of the net.
Less than five minutes later, Indians junior forward Nicco Mastrangelo displayed an impressive individual effort when dribbled around a defender and beat Snatchko with a chip shot inside the far post. Nicco and his brother, Mario Mastrangelo, have combined for more than 30 goals this season. The juniors’ hustle on the front end is paced by the strong defensive presence of seniors Troy Eskew and Max Lindsay. Eskew and Lindsay forced Big Macs junior forward Josh Kruczek, Canon-McMIllan’s most talented offensive threat, to the outside of the penalty box and limited strong scoring chances on net.
“The kids took them lightly,” Canon-McMillan head coach Larry Fingers said. “They outplayed us. They don’t do anything special, they work hard. They outworked us and let two mistakes go early in the game.”
Mario set up Nicco in the 66th minute to secure the victory for Peters Township. Mario’s lob pass across the goal struck Nicco’s head; sailing into the back of the net for the 3-0 lead.
Nico finished the hat trick only three minutes later by beating one defender; earning a breakaway and beating the goalkeeper to his far left.
The majority of crowd believed Peters Township made the game 3-0 in the 14th minute of the game. Senior defender Ryan Ponchione’s corner kick was headed into the back of the net by junior midfielder Jonathan Sion. As the Indians, Peters Township’s fans’ cheers turned to groans after the officials unexpectedly called the play offside.
Peters Township senior goalkeeper Max O’Hare recorded his third consecutive shutout in the WPIAL playoffs; assisting the Indians in defending set pieces. O’Hare snagged a corner kick out of mid-air late in the first half to secure a 2-0 lead for Peters Township heading into the second half.
“It’s finally come to an end,” senior goalkeeper Max O’Hare said. “Last year and years before, we hadn’t been successful. It finally feels like a weight has been lifted off of my back.”
The Indians will play Upper St. Clair Friday night (8;15 p.m.) at new Highmark Stadium.
Canon-McMillan will try to extend its season and qualify for the PIAA playoffs when it battles Bethel Park in the third-place game Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.