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Franklin Regional uses Wildcat formation to knock off Hampton

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 10:15 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional running back Brett Zanotto rides a wave of linemen into the end zone for a touchdown as Hampton defensive back Gus Schmitt attempts to pull him back during their game Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, in Murrysville.

Franklin Regional has the ability to score quickly. Just ask Hampton.

The Talbots were a touchdown ahead late in the first quarter, but during the next 4:27 the Panthers scored 24 points en route to a 33-12 victory Thursday in a WPIAL Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference matchup.

The victory keeps Franklin Regional (7-1, 6-1) in first place with Mars and Highlands. The Panthers play at Derry next week. Despite the loss, Hampton (4-4, 3-4) continues to be in the running for one of the remaining two playoff spots, along with Knoch, Hollidaysburg, Indiana and Greensburg Salem.

Brett Zanotto keyed the 24-point run by throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Charan Singh out of the Wildcat and running 7 yards for another score. He rushed for 83 yards on seven carries.

“It's fun to run,” Zanotto said of the Wildcat. “I've got two great receivers I can throw the ball too. The offensive line does a great job with the surge, and I'm just trying my best.”

“It's always in our game plan. We like to run it, and I love when Coach (Greg) Botti calls it.”

Hampton grabbed a 6-0 lead when C.J. Arch rumbled 29 yards for a touchdown with 7:22 left in the opening quarter.

Franklin Regional responded as Jake Roberge booted a 33-yard field goal after Singh returned the kickoff 46 yards to the Hampton 37.

Hampton then turned the ball over on its next three possessions. Zanotto recovered a Nick Grabowski fumble at the Hampton 49.

Then, with Zanotto in the Wildcat, the talented junior raced 14 yards on the first play and then lofted a perfect 35-yard strike to Singh on the next for a 10-6 lead.

“We ran that play in Week 1 against Mars, and Brett threw a touchdown pass to Charan,” Franklin Regional defensive back Casey Colagrande said. “I don't think Hampton was ready for it. Brett's a great athlete and we knew he could throw the ball.”

Franklin Regional lineman Kent Thomas recovered a Grabowski fumble two plays after the score, which set up Zanotto's rushing touchdown early in the second quarter to make it 17-6.

Then on Hampton's first play following the kickoff, Colagrande intercepted an underthrown pass and returned it 31 yards for a score to make it 24-6.

“I just read the quarterback and cut under the receiver,” Colagrande said. “Usually, we score first, but when they scored in woke us up.”

Franklin Regional, which turned the ball over five times, got a little sloppy as Zanotto and Singh were intercepted. The second interception set up Hampton's next score, a 2-yard touchdown pass from Grabowski to Jon Floss.

“That's what good teams should do, they got points off our turnovers,” Hampton coach Jacque DeMatteo said. “You take that away, and this game's a lot closer. I thought that we battled with a very good team.”

But the Panthers went back to the Wildcat. Zanotto's 32-yard run and Colin Jonov's 21-yard run on a reverse set up Paul Emanuele's 9-yard score with 1:11 left in the half.

“This was a big win,” Botta said. “We called this championship week. I'm not taking anything away from Derry, but they're struggling right now.

“But we've got one more game to play before we're officially one of the three (co-champions), depending on what else happens. We knew this was the biggest one of the last three. We had to get past Hampton.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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