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Brown reigns as Franklin Regional wins on homecoming

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 8:55 p.m.
(c) 2012 Lillian DeDomenic
Franklin Regional running back Dane Brown darts through a seam during the Panthers' homecoming night win over Hollidaysburg on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murrysville Star

Dane Brown won twice Friday night.

The senior running back had 150 total yards and two touchdowns, and to top it all off, he was named homecoming king at halftime of Franklin Regional's 35-0 win over Hollidaysburg on Friday.

The fifth-ranked Panthers (6-1, 5-1) also have a chance to be kings of the Greater Allegheny Conference after previously unbeaten Mars was upset last week by Knoch. That set up a three-way tie for first place between Mars, Franklin Regional and the Panthers' opponent when they go on the road this Friday at 7 p.m., No. 8 Hampton.

Brown was the star of the night for Franklin Regional, however, as he played a key role in the Panthers' first four touchdown drives, in addition to the homecoming honor.

“It was actually my girlfriend that won homecoming queen, so that was pretty awesome,” Brown said. “But getting a team win tonight was big, especially with so many people here. It was a great win for everyone on the team.”

The season hasn't been the smoothest for Brown, who injured his ankle during the team's second game and missed the next two weeks.

He returned to play in wins over Belle Vernon and Knoch, but Friday's game against Hollidaysburg (3-4, 3-3) was the first time the Franklin Regional career rushing leader looked as though he was back to normal.

“It was definitely something that wrenches at you inside, to have to watch your team and not be able to help,” Brown said. “I was putting in the effort at physical therapy to get back as quick as I could.”

Brown was sharp on his first two carries against Hollidaysburg, the second of which was a 17-yard touchdown, but his biggest play of the day came just before halftime.

After senior defensive back Chris Colucci made perhaps the play of the game by stripping the ball from Hollidaysburg quarterback Brian Urban and recovering it after a 60-yard run, the Panthers had 1:38 left and just a 7-0 lead.

On a first-down play from the Panthers' 33, Brown drifted to the left to catch a screen pass from quarterback Nico Lodovico. With blockers in front, Brown charged forward to midfield before cutting back all the way to the right side.

After breaking a pair of tackles, Brown was finally pulled down at the 16-yard line for a gain of 51, which set up a Lodovico touchdown run just before half.

“That was the boy we're used to seeing,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said of the long catch and run. “He told me before the game that he was ready to go, and he showed it. I'm proud of him.”

That big play swung momentum to the Panthers, who put the game away in the second half with touchdown runs of 13 yards by Brown, 2 yards by Matt Yurko and 3 yards by Paul Emanuele.

Even with the injury, the fall hasn't been all bad for Brown, who last month committed to attend and play football for Cornell University next year.

“I was down mostly to Ivy and Patriot League schools, and that was the level of football I felt would be appropriate for me, along with the academics,” Brown said.

“I love the campus at Cornell, but it was really the coaches that sold me. I love the direction they're going with the program. I got to go up there for their homecoming game and meet (former Mt. Lebanon and current Cornell running back) Luke Hagy, so the thought of a WPIAL backfield up there is something I'm excited about, too.”

Before that happens, there's work to be done at Franklin Regional, and Brown will be a big part of the team's success for the rest of this season.

“We need him. We're not going to go very far without him,” Botta said. “Our other backs run the ball well, but you saw what Dane's capable of doing (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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