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Tuesday, September 7, 2021 | 10:03 a.m.

Chaz Palla | Grandstand review

Shalers’ Keegan Smetanka throws during practice on Wednesday August 11, 2021 at Shaler Titans Football Field.

It’s been 12 years since the Shaler soccer team went undefeated for two weeks.

While there have been many lean years since 2009, including a 0-7 season last year, the Titans had consecutive seasons in 2018 and 2019 with four wins that included post-season trips to WPIAL class 5A.

Even in those two years the best they could get out of the goals was 1-1.

“It’s great,” said Shaler trainer Jim Ryan. “The children deserve it. You’ve done a lot of hard work and it’s great to see the results. “

After Shaler won 37:20 at New Castle in Week Zero, Shaler opened the 2021 home schedule by taking a 19-0 lead at halftime and heading to a 25-6 non-conference win over Mars.

“It’s always a huge success in every game,” said Ryan of his team’s strong first half. “That gives the children confidence.”

Shaler quarterback Keegan Smetanka had a universal game against the Fightin ‘Planets. The second year combined with 13 of 18 passes for 148 yards and a 19-yard scoring pass with senior Dylan Schlagel.

“Keegan is doing a great job,” said Ryan. “He makes things happen when we need them. He still has a long way to go and we look forward to seeing him develop over the course of the season and his career. “

Goals for Smetanka are not an issue. Six Titans caught passes in Week 1, led by the eight combined receptions for Schlagel and Brandon London in their sophomore year.

“Dylan Schlagel and Brandon London made some crucial catches that enabled us to score,” said Ryan.

It helps when a young quarterback has the help of a strong run attack. The Titans did that in Senior Josh Miller and Junior Luke Cignetti.

“Luke Cignetti and Josh Miller are key components of our running game,” said Ryan. “They also make game-changing plays in defense.”

Speaking of shaler defense, she kept Mars off the scoreboard for more than three-quarters, giving up just four points in two games.

“Playing physics and applying pressure has thwarted Mars’ offensive game plan,” said Ryan. “Austin Timko (Senior) was a defense force who helped unravel the Mars offensive.”

The top teams of the Class 5A Northeast Conference reach the playoffs. Both Kiski Area and North Hills also start 2-0, and the two preseason favorites in the conference are Pine-Richland and Penn Hills.

Ryan believes these early wins are nice building blocks for the program that hits Conference Play on October 1st.

“It’s a huge driving force and we don’t even play our best football,” he said.

Next up is another 2-0 team for the Titans, a trip to Hampton on Friday to take on the Talbots.

“I always look forward to playing at Hampton,” said Ryan. “You are very well trained and you are quick. The same could be said about our team. “

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