Lance Lysowski | Observer Reporter
Canon-McMillan has not defeated Peters Township in boys soccer since Nov. 6, 2012, in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs.
The previous five meetings between the two perennial powers have ended with four wins for the Indians and one draw. Each contest contained the same underlying theme – the Big Macs’ inability to sustain offensive pressure and stop PT’s forwards from getting the ball in open space.
In their second match of the season, it was more of the same.
Senior striker Nicco Mastrangelo scored two goals and the Indians dominated Canon-McMillan, 3-0, in a Section 7-AAA match Tuesday night.The victory clinches second place in the section for the Indians (8-2, 12-2), while the Big Macs (5-4-1, 10-5-1) head into the postseason as the third-place team.
“This gave us the feeling for the playoffs,” Mastrangelo said. “To finish section play in a big game against a big rival is huge for our confidence. We played a full 80 minutes and we need to carry that forward.”
Both of Mastrangelo’s goals were picturesque. With rain pouring, Mastrangelo corralled a cross pass from senior midfielder Brady Pike in the eighth minute by knocking it down with his right foot and cutting left. He seamlessly fired a shot with his left foot from 15 yards over the shoulder of C-M senior goalkeeper Christian Snatchko for a 1-0 lead.
“The first touch was the key to this game,” Mastrangelo said. “I personally love the rain. We had to keep our heads in the game and we couldn’t make any mistakes in the back.”
Nine minutes later, Peters Township senior midfielder Wes Ward’s corner kick was knocked away by a Big Mac defender and deflected back to Ward, who fired a shot from 25 yards. Mastrangelo slipped a defender and directed the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead.
“The conditions were really tough for both teams,” Peters Township head coach Bob Dyer said. “We took advantage of our chances and we were able to stop theirs. Playing one of our bigger rivals to finish section play is absolutely huge for these seniors.”
With Canon-McMillan struggling to keep the ball in the Indians’ end, the lead proved to be insurmountable. Peters Township’s dominance was magnified in the 28th minute when Ward took another corner kick, which was deflected wide and one-timed by junior midfielder Bennett Faloni into the open net for a 3-0 lead.
The Big Macs recorded just one shot on goal in the first half and their best chance came when senior midfielder Josh Kruczek had a tremendous individual effort by fending off a defender and dribbling around to find space to shoot. The ball went six inches over the crossbar.
Canon-McMillan responded to the three-goal halftime deficit with a strong showing in the second half’s opening minutes. Senior midfielder Jake Trainor took a free kick at midfield that took an awkward bounce in front of the net. The ball almost skipped over the head of PT goalkeeper Josh Deyarmin, but the senior deflected it away with his fingertips.
“We gave away two goals on individual mistakes and we gave them an opportunity on a team mistake where they capitalized,” Canon-McMillan head coach Larry Fingers said. “For the first time since I’ve been here, we have a numbers problem so we’re mixing our lineups a bit. That’s something we’re working on for the playoffs.”
Just two minutes later, the Big Macs came within inches of scoring when a corner kick by senior forward Jake Wilcox was deflected toward the empty net, but Deyarmin scrambled to make the save. The rain finally cleared in the second half, but neither team gained ground on the other as Peters Township walked away with the victory.
Despite losing two close contests to defending state champion Upper St. Clair, the Indians are bound for one of the top seeds in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
“We created some chances, but there are some mistakes we made that gave them a few chances,” Dyer said. “You can’t make mistakes like that and we have to capitalize on our chances at a higher rate.”