Lance Lysowski | Observer Reporter
Peters Township rushed up field with one minute remaining in Tuesday’s opening match of the Class AAA PIAA boys soccer playoffs.
Seven minutes after Canon-McMillan tied the game 1-1, the Indians were holding onto their playoff lives after a chippy, back and forth game. Like the previous three matches between the two teams, it was the leg of a Mastrangelo brother that led Peters Township to victory.
In poetic fashion, Mario Mastrangelo gathered a loose ball from 25-yards out and served a perfect touch pass to his twin brother, Nicco. Nicco split two defenders and beat Big Macs sophomore goalkeeper Christian Snatchko at the far post with 58 seconds on the clock. The Indians drained the clock and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 victory at Chartiers Valley High School.
“It was incredible,” Nicco said after scoring the game-winning goal. “All of the emotions from the game came out. We couldn’t let our heads drop and just kept our composure to try to get a goal before regulation.”
The victory advances Peters Township to a matchup with fellow Section 5-AAA foe Upper St. Clair Saturday at a site and time to be determined. The Indians, the Section 5-AAA champions, went 1-0-1 against Upper St. Clair this season.
After a sloppy first half, Peters Township sustained offensive pressure in Canon-McMillan’s end in the game’s 60th minute to set up a corner kick by junior midfielder Ryan Ponchione. Ponchione’s kick floated to the farside of the penalty box and was met by the right foot of junior midfielder Rylen Faloni. Faloni struck the ball in mid-air to give the Indians the lead.
Canon-McMillan answered less than five minutes later after several critical errors by the Indians. Big Macs senior midfielder Corey McCurdy’s free kick struck the top of the head of teammate Ivan Viveros inside the penalty box. Indians senior goalkeeper Max O’Hare approached the ball 10 feet outside the goal, but Viveros’ header redirected the attempt past O’Hare to tie the game and swing momentum to Canon-McMillan.
“It’s unfortunate,” Canon-McMillan head coach Larry Fingers said. “We have a very good team down in Canonsburg. We aren’t traditionally one of these – we usually aren’t spoken of in the same circles. We are glad now that we are two-time entrance in the state tournament. It shows a lot of growth in the program.”
The first half of Tuesday night’s matchup was uncharacteristic of Peters Township. A team that usually limits mistakes on both ends, the Indians struggled offensively; missing critical passes and giving possession to the Big Macs at midfield. Peters Township was not winning battles to loose balls and allowed the high-powered scoring threats of Canon-McMillan to charge downfield.
“We looked at some different things at halftime,” Peters Township head coach Bob Dyer said. “Ultimately, if you aren’t winning 50-50 balls, you aren’t going to do well in this game. I think we did it better in the second half.”
After Peters Township gained the 1-0 lead, the desperation of a team with eight seniors showed for Canon-McMillan. The Big Macs pushed the ball downfield, challenging Indians defenders and ultimately setting up the free kick they capitalized on.
“We are resilient,” Dyer said. “I absolutely think we work hard to the finish. We believe in ourselves. In fact, our belief in ourselves hurt us tonight. I don’t think we played with the same desperation that they did and it’s troublesome for me as a coach. It was my job to prepare them and it’s something we will look at for Saturday.”