Lance Lysowski | Observer Reporter
Peters Township’s boys soccer team repeated as WPIAL Class AAA champion with a prolific offense, grabbing the newspaper headlines and attention of opposing coaches, but the Indians’ defense is ensuring that one goal is all it takes for a win.
Whether it be senior Jake Valley, senior Sean Harrison, junior Kelson Marisa or senior goalkeeper Joshua Deyarmin, teams have a difficult time scoring on Peters Township’s players in the back end. The Indians have allowed only one goal during the postseason and just five goals allowed all season.
They continued to clog passing lanes and frustrate opposing forwards Saturday evening.
Senior striker Mario Mastrangelo scored two goals and the defense only allowed two shots as Peters Township defeated Central Catholic, 3-0, in a PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal game at Big Macs Stadium. The Indians (20-2) advance to the semifinals and will face Lower Dauphin Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
“They are a fantastic team. We all knew going in it would be a team effort to shut them down,”” Harrison said. “It wasn’t going to be any one person. Our game plan all year has been to win individual battles. When a team wins those, the team wins.”
The defense was aided when the Indians’ pressure up top created a scoring chance and junior midfielder Brady Pike capitalized in the eighth minute. Mastrangelo was fouled near midfield to set up a free kick taken by Valley.
The ball landed two feet to the right of the net and junior Matt Massucci immediately struck the ball into the air. Senior Ryan Ponchione collected it and got a shot off from close range before Pike snuck the rebound over the keeper’s shoulder for the 1-0 lead.
The Vikings (21-3), who lost to Peters Township in the WPIAL semifinals, came in with a plan to shift an extra forward up top. The move created scoring chances and Central Catholic pressured the Indians with their physical style of play.
“When we lost to them the first time we were a little bit flat,” Central Catholic head coach Claudio Morini said. “I thought that tonight we played very well, but sometimes when you do the best you can, it’s not enough.”
No cards were handed out by officials, but the game was littered with foul calls and several injuries. Pike left the game in the second half and did not return.
“They are one of the few teams that really wants to impose its strength on us,” Peters Township head coach Bob Dyer said. “They did a great job of it tonight. They are a formidable opponent and I think they are the best team we’ve played all season.”
Central Catholic backed up Dyer’s praise with a back-and-forth second half, which included several scoring opportunities, but Deyarmin stopped the two shots he faced and other chances were wide of the net.
Mastrangelo – fighting the effects of a cold – gave the Indians two insurance goals in the second half. He scored his first goal in the 64th minute after forcing a turnover, dribbling deep into Central Catholic’s end and faking a defender. When the defender bit to his right, Mastrangelo went left and fired a shot into the top-left corner of the net.
Two minutes later, he collected a loose ball rolling toward the goal line. Vikings keeper Anthony Tirone exited the net to challenge him, but Mastrangelo collected the ball, side stepped Tirone and his shot trickled into the open net.
“We needed another one. I just wanted to get a shot on goal,” Mastrangelo said. “I got kind of lucky on the second one. I won’t take that as skill. It was pretty lucky.”
The Indians controlled time of possession for the final 15 minutes and walked away one game closer to the PIAA Championship game in Hershey.
“The last two years, we got knocked out in this game,” Mastrangelo said. “It’s going to be very special.”