If déjà vu can occur in reality, South Park's season shares a number of eerily similar qualities with last years. Entering the 2012 postseason undefeated, the Eagles were bested by upstart, defensively-staunch South Fayette in the WPIAL quarterfinals, losing in a shootout.
Last week, another opponent focused on defense in McGuffey forced South Park into another WPIAL quarterfinal shootout. But this time the Eagles prevailed, and the reward – if you can call it that – for their efforts is a rematch with South Fayette in this year's semifinals.
They'll square off at North Allegheny high school tonight, kickoff's at 8:00.
"I think if you asked anyone on our team, they've probably been waiting 365 days to get an opportunity at South Fayette," South Park coach Jon Cantwell said. "A lot of things have to fall into place – you have to win, get on the right side of the bracket, and take advantage of a couple opportunities to get these shots at redemption."
South Park (19-1) – having lost its only match to Class AAA WPIAL semifinalist Peters Township – enters the match as the higher seed at No. 2, but with South Fayette seeded third, consistency in approach and success has earned the Lions some well-deserved respect.
The Lions edged Mars 1-0 in the opening round before defeating Laurel Highlands 2-0 in the quarterfinals.
While South Fayette (16-2-2) forward Brian Coyne is amongst the WPIAL's top goalscorers, the team's success has largely been through a defense anchored by center back Dan Pruss and goalkeeper Alex Gedrys. The Lions have given up only six goals all year – four in their final game of the regular season against Class AAA WPIAL semifinalist Canon-McMillan.
Key to unlocking the backline will be South Park's Justin Minda, the WPIAL's top goalscorer in the regular season with 40 goals and midfield playmaker Brandon Walbert. Defender Steve Girgash leads a defense that has been nearly as suffocating as South Fayette's, surrendering only 10 goals in 20 games.
And while a number of things remain the same from last season – each team returned seven starters – Cantwell believes staying keyed on the task at hand will be vital for the Eagles.
"We can't do anything to change last year's result, we have to focus on (tonight)'s result," he said. "We focus on what happened last year too much, we're going to be disappointed."