Lance Lysowski | Observer Reporter
Peters Township head boys soccer coach Bob Dyer did not need a motivational speech when the Indians gathered Sunday afternoon to prepare for their PIAA Class AAA first-round playoff game.
There was no talk of avoiding a hangover after repeating as WPIAL champions. His group of 13 seniors took care of that for him.
We got together and talked about there only being four games remaining in our high school careers,” senior striker Nicco Mastrangelo said. “We told each other with that many games left, we had to give it our all in each one.”
They backed up the talk Tuesday night at Elizabeth Forward High School.
Led by the strong play of its seniors, Peters Township defeated State College, 4-0.
The Indians (19-2) advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight year and will face Central Catholic (21-2), which defeated Erie Cathedral Prep in the first round, Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
Despite missing three players who started the second half of the WPIAL title win over Upper St. Clair to minor injuries – senior defender Kelson Marisa, junior midfielder Brady Pike and freshman midfielder Bryce Gabelhart – Peters Township scored quickly and allowed just two shots on net.
“We missed a couple of chances early, but with us missing those three guys, I’m extremely proud of how other guys stepped up and took on new roles,” Dyer said. “We did really well.”
For the second straight game, it was Mastrangelo who gave the Indians an early lead. Senior midfielder Rylen Faloni collected a ball within the six-yard box in the second minute and fired a shot on Little Lions goalkeeper Jason Keller.
The ball bounced right to Mastrangelo, who shot put the rebound into the open net.
Nine minutes later, State College committed a turnover in the Indians’ end. It was collected by senior defender Sean Harrison, who quickly fired a ball downfield to lead the sprinting Mastrangelo. The lefty outran two defenders, collected the ball and fired a low shot that beat Keller at the far post for a 2-0 lead.
With players shifted to unnatural positions, the Indians’ 3-2-5 system looked like its usual self.
“We train throughout the season to prepare for injuries like that,” Mastrangelo said. “Other guys stepped in and did a great job. We all have chemistry. The only thing you have to adjust to is where some guys are going with the ball.”
With senior midfielder Ryan Ponchione shifting to defense to help with the loss of Marisa, Peters Township limited State College’s chance – not allowing open shots on net and playing a strong transition game.
Holding a 2-0 halftime lead, the Indians avoided two close calls in the opening minutes of the second half before senior striker Mario Mastrangelo scored. Dylan Weyers found Mastrangelo in the slot, who dribbled around a defender and beat the keeper to his right side.
Faloni capped the night with a picturesque goal from in the slot on a pass from Mastrangelo in the 50th minute.
With a second game against Central Catholic in less than two weeks, Peters Township is well-aware what lies ahead. Learning of Upper St. Clair’s loss to open the PIAA playoffs was also on the players’ minds.
“I was making sure to tell all the guys not to worry after we heard about that Upper St. Clair loss,” Faloni said. “We knew about it and some of the guys were happy, but we had a big game to play. It’s time to prepare for (Central Catholic again).”