Jason Mackey | Observer Reporter
Upper St. Clair sophomore Garrett Blake has the best throw-in the WPIAL has seen over the past couple years, one that presents plenty of challenges when the Panthers look to create offense around the goal. Not to worry. The Peters Township boys soccer team had a pretty good antidote Thursday night. A few of them, actually.
Goalkeeper Max O’Hare spent the better part of the evening scrambling to clear Blake’s throw-ins, but the result was a 2-0 win that handed their neighborhood rivals their first loss of the season and all but guaranteed the Section 5-AAA title.
“When the ball goes in your box, you do whatever it takes to get it out,” Peters Township coach Bob Dyer said. “”e’ve talked about that, and we’ve practiced that. That throw-in is a tremendous weapon. It’s putting it inside the six and mass chaos. Max has to find his way through that traffic, and that’s not easy. They all try to help him.”
One of those helping was senior Mark Enscoe, who’s part of an experienced back line that includes Bryan Hall and Matt Girouard.
“It seemed like we wanted it more than them,” Enscoe said. “It was a solid game defensively.”
Mario Mastrangelo scored in the 21st minute and Justin Magnotti converted on a corner kick in the 51st to help Peters Township improve to 9-0-2 in section, 12-1-2 overall ahead of Monday’s match at Moon, which can officially clinch the title. Upper St. Clair played without its central striker, Joel Hart, who’s out with a concussion.
Peters Township lost to Upper St. Clair (10-1-1, 14-1-1) three times last year, including once in the WPIAL Class AAA final. The Indians surrendered a total of seven goals in those three matches, and Dyer estimated that five of them were on throw-ins by Blake.
“That’s the best throw-in in the WPIAL,” Dyer said. “That’s the best throw-in that there’s been in the WPIAL in a couple years. He’s very accurate with it. It’s a line drive. They have very big boys who go and hunt the ball.”
It worked Sept. 22, too, as Upper St. Clair built a 2-0 lead by halftime of the teams’ first meeting this season. But Mastrangelo and Enscoe scored to force overtime, and a 2-2 tie was the result.
What changed starting from the second half of the first match?
“The second half, they decided to go back to what they do best – pressuring, playing long ball, being physical,” Upper St. Clair coach Uwe Scheider said. “That’s what they did all night long tonight, too.”
Mastrangelo’s goal came after a deflection landed in the middle of the box, and Panthers goalkeeper Joe Conlon didn’t get a solid touch on it. That allowed Mastrangelo to easily convert. Magnotti took a hard corner feed and leapt high in the air to head it home – a college player’s goal, Dyer said.
“It was a nicely driven ball,” Magnotti said. “Didn’t have to put much on it. Just had to angle it into the goal.”
The win came two days after Peters Township snuck past third-place Canon-Mc-Millan on an own goal late in the game. Count Dyer among those who happy to see his team with such a passionate response, one that involved shutting down a team that had not yet been shut out and one that possesses one of the best weapons in the WPIAL.
“We showed up,” Dyer said. “”We played a big boy game. To win Section 5, you have to play big boy games, and we did that.”