McMURRAY – When this week is over, Andrew Massucci will have played in two WPIAL semifinal games.
The senior is a striker for Peters Township’s boys soccer team and the kicker for its football team. Soccer took on Fox Chapel Wednesday night, and football will play Gateway Friday, both games with a place in the WPIAL championship at stake.
For almost an hour, it looked like round one would end on a sour note.
Fox Chapel’s Nate Lazzara gave the Foxes a 1-0 lead 13 minutes in, and that lead stayed for the rest of the first half.
Then the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Then the next 10 minutes.
Then the next 10 minutes.
By the time the scoreboard clock read 5:00, it looked like the top-seeded Indians would meet the same fate as Peters Township’s girls team did just 48 hours prior.
Then, Massucci struck.
“He’s an opportunist,” PT coach Bob Dyer said. “He works incredibly hard and he got the benefit of his teammates working hard as well.”
The “opportunist” lived up to that label twice, scoring 75 minutes into regulation to tie it, and then winning the game with less than a minute left in the second overtime, negating the possibility of penalty kicks. The Indians won, 2-1, and have a chance for their 10th district championship Saturday afternoon.
“In games like these,” Massucci said, “you don’t get as many chances. So the ones you get, you have to put them away.”
For the first 75 minutes, Peters Township didn’t create a lot of opportunities. The ones the Indians did get were snuffed out by Foxes goalkeeper Clayton Humbert, who ended his high school career with a seven-save night.
For most of the evening, the underdog Foxes look like they’d be the ones dancing. Massucci’s first goal changed the game.
“I think our team was a little bit down mentally at first,” Massucci said. “Then, you know, we just kept fighting and battling back. When I put that (goal) in, I think we got a lot of momentum, and got a lot of energy, and played our game.”
Despite the game being turned on its axis, Fox Chapel persisted and had several chances to go back ahead before the end of regulation, including a sequence with three consecutive corner kicks. But the second goal needed to save the Foxes’ season never came.
Massucci has been in several big games in his high school sports career, being part of the soccer program as well as the football squad’s resurgence under coach TJ Plack, highlighted, to this point, by a trip to the 5A championship game in 2019. Of all of the games Massucci has played in, few have been more exciting.
“This is definitely up there as one of the best,” he said.
Dyer has been a part of a lot more games than Massucci, having played on two state championship teams at PT before coming back to lead his alma mater.
Despite having a lot of years on his striker, he feels the same way.
“I thought that that game was as hotly contest of a game as I’ve seen in many, many years,” Dyer said. “I thought both teams were fantastic, and then in the long run, I think we created more chances and were rewarded with a win.”
All that stands between Peters Township and WPIAL gold is Seneca Valley, which had a much less stressful semifinal, handling North Allegheny, 5-1. Dyer knows there is still a lot that his team has to get done before reaching the top of the mountain.
“I think (Seneca Valley is) incredibly well-coached,” Dyer said. “I think they’re very skilled team. They have a lot of numbers, I know that they have a lot of depth, and I would expect a little less of a physical game.”
Who knows what is to come, but for now, Dyer, Massucci and the rest of the program will enjoy, regardless of how the rest of 2020 plays out, a night that will be remembered for quite some time by those who took part,
“We’re pretty banged up right now,” Dyer said, “and for us to get that win, that means a lot. With my memory nowadays, I think that ranks up there pretty high.”