7-on-7 tournament a success for Franklin Regional

Doug Gulasy
| Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Franklin Regional football coach Greg Botta knows about the benefits of playing 7-on-7 tournaments.

He's familiar with some of the pitfalls, too.

“You learn about other teams' offenses and defenses, different schemes — there's a lot you gain from it,” Botta said. “I'm a big advocate of it. But in all my years of coaching, I've lost some people during 7-on-7s for the year, and that's something you don't want to have happen to you.

“You can't fear it, either. But you just don't want to (play 7-on-7s) a lot because your (injury) chances will increase the more you do it.”

With those pros and cons in mind, Botta and Franklin Regional hosted the third annual Westmoreland County Coaches Association 7-on-7 tournament last week.

Afterward, Botta was happy to report that the tournament went off “without a hitch,” praising special teams coach Larry Sellitto for his work coordinating it.

“It was a lot of work,” Botta said. “Everything (Sellitto) does, he does extremely well. It went without a hitch today. He did a great job.”

The tournament featured 12 teams from across Westmoreland County: Franklin Regional, Greensburg Central Catholic, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Jeannette, Kiski Area, Mt. Pleasant, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Southmoreland, Valley and Yough.

The teams were broken down into pools of six, with each squad playing the other five in round-robin play. Winners of each pool advanced to the championship game.

Franklin Regional played in a pool with Hempfield, Mt. Pleasant, Norwin, Southmoreland and Yough. The Panthers finished 2-3 in their round-robin games, but Botta said he was focused more on giving repetitions to younger players.

“Everybody likes to win, but for me, it was about trying to get a lot of kids who were question marks at the varsity level reps,” Botta said. “The last couple of games, we did that. We gave kids who are sophomores and juniors who don't usually get a lot of playing time a lot of reps, and a lot of guys surprised me.

“That's what you're looking for — to give your guys experience out here, and if you win along the way, that's fine.”

Because quarterback Nico Lodovico graduated after last season, Franklin Regional will break in a new starter at the position in 2013. Rising senior Charan Singh — a wide receiver last season — played most of the games at quarterback last week, but rising senior Stefano Giacchino also got some work in.

But Botta's eyes were also trained on the other skill position players on offense, as well as the defensive players.

“We have a lot of kids at wide receiver trying to get in the mix of five or six receivers,” he said. “The linebackers and the safeties, we try to get kids reps so we can see if they can help us out. The first game, (players are) sucking air, so you have to have kids ready to back up and ready to play.”

Last week's WCCA tournament was Franklin Regional's fourth of the summer. While Botta was pleased with the Panthers' progress throughout the summer, he isn't sure how much impact it will have when training camp officially begins Aug. 12.

“My concern is we teach what we need to do,” he said. “7-on-7 games are great, but it doesn't indicate what kind of football team you have.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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