Franklin Regional football team slowed, but not stopped, by injuries
TribLIVE Sports Videos
With three teams tied for first place and four others within two games, the Greater Allegheny Conference race could come down to several key factors this season.
Unfortunately for Franklin Regional, one such factor — health — is not currently in its favor.
The Panthers (3-1, 3-1) began the week tied with Highlands and Mars atop the Greater Allegheny. However, with several starters out because of injury, the team doesn't look like the healthiest pick to win the conference.
“We probably have four or five starters out for a long period of time,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “... We're kind of banged up right now. We've got to get better, and we've got to have other kids step up.”
Current starters missing time include two-way lineman Adam Mihoci, sidelined with a knee injury; linebacker Marty Novak, who suffered a shoulder injury during practice week; and wide receivers Patrick Kukalis and Carter Patrick, who both got injured during a scrimmage against Kiski this summer.
Additionally, senior quarterback/defensive back Charan Singh is playing only on offense because of an injured ankle. Tight end Dylan Wallace and lineman Sam Sedivy are just getting back into the lineup after getting injured during the preseason.
“Some of the guys I know will be out for a (considerable) amount of time,” Botta said. “I've got to be a realist in my position. … It's just a gradual process, and one I was hoping not to find myself (in) because of the inexperience we have.”
Because of the injuries, Franklin Regional started three sophomores last week in Charlie Mazon, Jake Pickup and Jake Lauer, while a fourth — Jake Ross — played extensively in the secondary because of Singh's injury.
The younger players, as well as the holdovers, responded with a 42-20 victory over Greensburg Salem.
“I was pleased not only with their effort but how they continually bounced back after going behind the first couple quarters,” Botta said. “We answered a score with a score, and that was very important. Finally, in the end of the third quarter and beginning of fourth quarter, we started to pull away.”
After being shut out, 17-0, against Highlands in Week 3 — the first time Franklin Regional was shut out since Oct. 9, 2009, against Mars — the Panthers' offense responded with a big game against Greensburg Salem. Paul Emanuele (15 carries for 100 yards), Brett Zanotto (seven for 100, three touchdowns) and Singh (eight for 107, one touchdown) all topped 100 yards on the ground as Franklin Regional scored a season-high 42 points.
Botta does have some questions defensively, however, after Franklin Regional allowed 20 points in the first three quarters against Greensburg Salem. That performance came after the Panthers allowed Highlands running back Elijah Jackson to rush for 232 yards the week before.
“I'll be quite frank: I'm very disappointed in the defense,” Botta said. “That's not the type of defense we play, giving up the yardage we did the past two weeks. We've got to fix that.”
With key defensive players like Mihoci and Novak out, Franklin Regional is relying on players like Mazon and Josh Sabo-Pediconi to play both offense and defense — roles they're unaccustomed to.
However, after Zanotto missed three quarters of the Highlands game with an injury, he returned to the lineup and recorded 17 tackles against Greensburg Salem.
“Him in the middle solidifies us,” Botta said. “He's a kid we can't afford to lose if we continue on down the line searching for a playoff spot.”
Franklin Regional will take a break from conference play this week with a home game against Belle Vernon (1-3). While the Leopards are struggling, Botta said they played strong games against West Mifflin and Elizabeth Forward before their opponents pulled away in the second half.
“I'm not taking this team lightly,” he said. “And what I want to do is get through this game without getting anybody else hurt.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pine-Richland hopes to avoid ‘drop off’ against State College
- Through the years: A look at final games of A-K Valley schools
- South Fayette again defeats Aliquippa to defend WPIAL Class AA title
- Scoring record within reach for Clairton
- Clairton wins 11th WPIAL football championship
- Brentwood’s Conroy shares top conference award on defense
- South Fayette, Karns City set for rematch in PIAA quarterfinals
- PIAA quarterfinalists Central Valley, Conneaut sharing success after mergers
- Liotta, Petrishen represent AK-Valley at WPIAL football finals
- Pine-Richland tops defending champ Central Catholic to capture WPIAL title
- Central Valley beats rival West Allegheny to win WPIAL Class AAA championship