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Cat fight: Franklin Regional takes on Hollidaysburg Friday night

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:01 p.m.
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Franklin Regional running back Dane Brown gains yardage against Knoch in the first quarter at Knoch Stadium in Jefferson Township on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Knoch's Michael Cunningham gets past a Franklin Regional defender for a big gain after a pass catch in the first quarter at Knoch Stadium in Jefferson Township on Thursday. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Knoch running back Benjamin Tackett fights for extra yardage as he is tackled by Franklin Regional's Charan Singh in the second quarter at Knoch Stadium in Jefferson Township on Thursday. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch

It's true that blemishes become more pronounced on a television camera, but Franklin Regional's early-game struggles couldn't stop the Panthers from stealing the show.

Class AAA No. 6 Franklin Regional won its first televised game of 2012 by shaking off a slow start for a 23-13 win at Knoch in a Greater Allegheny Conference game shown on Root Sports last Thursday.

Miscues by the Panthers (5-1, 4-1) led to an early 7-3 deficit after the first of two scores for Ben Tackett of Knoch (4-2, 3-2). But Charan Singh's 24-yard scoring reception from Nico Lodovico gave the Panthers a 10-7 lead, despite some frustrating moments for head coach Greg Botta and his staff.

“I counted out nine mistakes that we made, offensively and defensively, in the first five minutes,” Botta said. “Offsides, holding, a snap over our quarterback's head — it was like one thing after another, and we were lucky to survive that first quarter.”

Franklin Regional took control to start the second half, as Singh caught his second touchdown from 29 yards out and Adam Mihoci caught a 3-yard score to give the Panthers a commanding lead.

Tackett scored in the final quarter for Knoch, but the Panthers' defense otherwise held firm to keep the Knights from rallying.

“Our kids rallied. We had a good talk at halftime about how these are the sort of games that mold you, and the kids really responded,” Botta said.

Lodovico led the FR offense with 186 yards on 9-for-18 passing with three touchdowns and an interception. Singh had most of the receiving yardage with 154 on six catches, and he was strong in the air to bring in some high passes.

The road win sets Franklin Regional on a clear path toward a second-place conference finish and a home playoff game, but the Panthers still have some challenging games remaining on the schedule — the first of which comes Friday at 7 p.m. against Hollidaysburg (3-3, 3-2).

The Golden Tigers will come to Murrysville knowing that one more conference win likely earns them a playoff spot, but with undefeated Mars next on the schedule, Hollidaysburg players will be trying to not leave their hopes to their final game at Indiana.

“Hollidaysburg is fighting for the playoffs, so we know it's not going to be an easy game,” Botta said. “I know their coach, John Barton, very well from coaching in the East-West Game with him, and he's going to cross all the T's and dot all the I's in preparing for this game.”

The Golden Tigers run a read-option offense with 225-pound running back Greg Dinges being the hammer in the backfield and 170-pounder Reid Miller being the speedster taking handoffs from quarterback Brian Urban.

Hollidaysburg is coming off a 28-14 loss to Hampton in which it had a slow start of its own to fall behind, 14-0, before fighting back against the Talbots, who currently share second place in the conference with Franklin Regional.

“Their line is huge, and defensively, they play a modified five-man front with a lot of Cover 3 and Cover 4 that we have to prepare for,” Botta said.

“They're a good team, but they've self-destructed in a few games. They fumbled early against Hampton to fall behind 14-0, and they did the same things against Knoch. Those are mistakes they have made, but we can't count on them doing the same against us. We have to be prepared.”

The biggest benefit of Franklin Regional's television game last week is that the Thursday contest gives the team an extra day of rest and preparation for homecoming, where the Panthers will want to be at their best.

“We are banged up, but the good thing about Thursday games is the extra day off,” Botta said. “We have to get healthy, and some of our guys won't be back, but for guys like Mihoci, who has a sprained ankle, needed that extra rest and will be back on the field.

“It is homecoming, and the kids are going to enjoy themselves, but they also know what they have to do this week to get a win on Friday.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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