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RB Elijah Jackson uses power, speed to help beat Franklin Regional

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 11:24 p.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Highlands' Jeremy Jackson (center) hurdles a Franklin Regional defender on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at Franklin Regional.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Franklin Regional's Charan Singh escapes the Highlands defense during the first half on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at Franklin Regional High School.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Franklin Regional's Charan Singh (left) is brought down by Highlands' Zach Mazur in the first half on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at Franklin Regional High School.

Elijah Jackson began the second half with speed.

He ended it with power.

Jackson rushed for 182 of his 232 yards in the second half, and Highlands' defense shut down Class AAA No. 4 Franklin Regional's offense in a 17-0 Greater Allegheny Conference victory Friday night at Franklin Regional Stadium.

“That's a great football team,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said of Franklin Regional. “They're well-coached, (and) you see the size differential and speed differential.

“We tell our kids it all comes down to who hits the longest and who hits our hardest. That's our motto, man, and they come after you.”

Jackson, a 5-foot-7, 140-pound junior, hit Franklin Regional the hardest in the second half.

After carrying the ball 12 times for 50 yards in the first half, Jackson exceeded that total on his first run of the second half. He carried the ball off the left side for 68 yards, setting up a Sam Elliott field goal to give the Golden Rams a 10-0 lead.

Highlands (3-0, 3-0) put the game away with a 14-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Jackson carried the ball nine times for 55 yards on the drive, capping it off with a 7-yard touchdown with 4:39 left.

“Everybody knows he's fast, but he runs with power,” Albert said. “He's 165 pounds. He runs with power like you've never seen and he's got the heart of a lion.”

Meanwhile, Highlands' defense limited Franklin Regional to 124 total yards and five first downs. Quarterback Charan Singh led the Panthers (2-1, 2-1) with 62 yards passing and 57 rushing, but the majority of his rushing totals came on two big plays in the first quarter.

Penalties and missed opportunities cost the Panthers. Franklin Regional was penalized 10 times, including three personal fouls, and missed on a handful of deep pass opportunities.

“We just made a ton of mistakes on defense, didn't wrap (up ball carriers) and had too many personal fouls, too many penalties,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said.

“You can't win games like that, especially (against) good caliber football teams.”

Franklin Regional's second drive of the game typefied that offensive frustration.

With the game scoreless, Singh put the Panthers inside the 10-yard line with a 39-yard run. A personal foul pushed the team back out to the 25, but Singh set up a 22-yard field goal attempt with a 20-yard run on third down.

However, junior Jake Roberge pushed the kick wide.

“That would've been a big momentum shifter,” Botta said.

Late in the second quarter, Highlands broke through. A 10-yard run by Jeremy Jackson on an end-around, a 19-yard reception by fullback Weston Bernath and an 11-yard run by Elijah Jackson put the Golden Rams inside the Franklin Regional 5-yard line. On second-and-goal from the 1, tight end Allan Cratsenberg lined up at quarterback and pushed his way into the end zone to give Highlands a 7-0 lead heading into halftime.

With the win, Highlands moves into first place by itself in the Greater Allegheny Conference. The Golden Rams face another difficult challenge next week when they host Mars (2-1, 2-1).

“Each week is a battle,” Albert said. “Every team is coached extremely well. But we'll enjoy this for tonight before we get back to the board.”

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

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