#3 Mars (16-3-1) vs #5 Chartiers Valley (16-4)
Highmark Stadium, Saturday, 5:45 p.m.
Head coaches – Chris Knauff (Mars), Garrett MacKenzie (Chartiers Valley).
Last year, in the final game of the weekend, Mars boys couldn’t hold on to a 2-1 lead late in the 2nd half, and lost as South Fayette rallied for a 3-2 overtime win.
Maybe it’s fitting that Mars is the only finalist from 2015 to make it back to Highmark Stadium.
These are both storied soccer program in our area, as the Planets (16-3-1) have won two WPIAL titles and Chartiers Valley (16-4) has claimed four.
The Planets have had a solid season, with a lot of experienced players that have guided them through a season which they have not lost a game against a 3A team.
Under the guidance of former Pittsburgh Riverhounds player, Garrett McKenzie, this Chartiers Valley team has been the hottest in 3A. The Colts have won 11 games in a row, a streak that began Sept. 24. All four of their losses have come by one goal.
They won a thriller in the semifinals, edging Montour, 2-1, in a come-from behind effort in double overtime.
TACTICS, STRATEGIES and PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mars has been a solid defensive unit all season, and will be a hard team to score against.
The Planets are led by a pair of outstanding juniors, Cory Ferguson and Caleb Brake, who experienced last year’s heartbreak in the final. Brake is one of the anchors of the Mars back line, while Ferguson is a dangerous player on the ball that Char Valley will have to mark all evening.
Char Valley found a way to break through against another very strong defensive Montour team that only surrendered six goals before the semifinals, feature Sean Tinney in its attack. Tinney is a playmaker, who had 22 goals and 16 assists this season.
Caleb Zajicek, a senior keeper for Char Valley, has given up just one goal in three playoff games and has posted 10 shutouts this season.