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Franklin Regional's Singh welcomes new position behind center

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 10:00 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional quarterback Charan Singh passes during the Westmoreland County Coaches Association seven-on-seven football tournament on July 18, 2013, at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville.

Charan Singh made plenty of plays as a wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner for Franklin Regional last season.

But with a vacancy at quarterback heading into 2013, Panthers coach Greg Botta found a way to get his senior playmaker's hands on the ball more often.

Singh will play his first game as Franklin Regional's starter when the Panthers travel to take on Mars at 7 p.m. Friday at Planet Stadium. It will mark his first extended playing time at the position since his freshman season.

Botta is more excited than worried.

“Putting the ball in his hands every play is going to be dynamic,” Botta said. “He's quite capable of scoring from anywhere on the field, as (was made) very obvious last year from his punt returns for touchdowns and kickoff returns for touchdowns. Having the ball in his hands is going to be dangerous.”

Singh spent the past two seasons as Franklin Regional's backup quarterback, but he blossomed last season as a starting wide receiver. He led the team with 28 receptions for 476 yards, hauling in five touchdown passes.

He also made plays on defense, where he intercepted four passes, returning one for a touchdown; and special teams, where he returned a punt for a touchdown against Belle Vernon.

Colleges took notice of Singh's junior season, and Botta said he is receiving interest from both FBS and FCS schools as a receiver or defensive back.

For now, however, Singh is embracing the move to quarterback.

“(It's a) new position, new season, all new starts,” he said. “(I've) got to learn a lot of stuff. It's going to be a fun season.”

Botta said Singh is unlike any quarterback that he's had during his 20-year tenure at Franklin Regional. Two-year starter Nico Lodovico excelled as a passer, throwing for 1,345 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, but also had value in the running game with 311 yards and three scores.

Singh, who put on between 35 and 40 pounds in the offseason, figures to provide a different look. He averaged 9.7 yards per carry during his sophomore season, scoring three touchdowns on the ground.

“What Charan gives us is that dynamic ability of running the football, and we're definitely going to use that,” Botta said. “I love the idea of him touching the ball every play. I'm quite sure if he's scrambling in the pocket and he gets a lane, he's going to be tough to bring down.”

Mars, meanwhile, will counter Franklin Regional's inexperienced backfield with an experienced one of its own. All three of the Planets' starters from last season return — quarterback Owen Nearhoof and running backs Josh Schultheis and Jason Lozzi.

Junior fullback Schultheis is the headliner of that group after rushing for 1,687 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, including 164 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-17 win over Franklin Regional.

“We're obviously expecting big things from Josh,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. “He's bigger and stronger than he was a year ago, and faster. I think last year, he was kind of feeling his way as far as how to run and where to run. He's a whole year seasoned as far as knowing where the holes are, knowing where he's got to cut.”

For all the similarities between the teams — both are replacing their entire starting offensive lines and much of their front seven on defense — the two offenses differ. Mars' Wing-T offense is built around ball control, while Singh and senior wide receiver Colin Jonov (34.4 yards per catch, six touchdowns last season) provide explosiveness for Franklin Regional.

“(Singh is) a guy that we have to concentrate on, and he's a guy that we're going to need to slow down,” Heinauer said. “I'm not sure you're going to be able to stop him totally, but you're definitely going to have to slow him down.”

Friday's matchup could go a long way toward deciding the Greater Allegheny Conference crown, though Heinauer pointed out last season's conference winner — his own squad — finished with one loss.

Either way, both coaches expect a physical matchup.

“It's going to be a knockout, 12-round fight,” Botta said. “Last year, we couldn't withstand four quarters. It's going to be that kind of game. It's going to be back-and-forth, I believe, and who can stand up the longest is going to win it.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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