Franklin Regional football team laying success on the line
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Franklin Regional football coach Greg Botta experienced a first in his 20 years of coaching earlier this season.
Each week, offensive line coach Chris Capozzoli grades his players on keeping their heads in the right position, stepping correctly and staying on their blocks on each play. Linemen who accomplish all three facets on 85 percent of the offensive plays in the game are considered to have “graded out” for that week's game.
Early this season, that wasn't happening.
“Not one person graded out (on the offensive line), and that was for the first two or three games,” Botta said. “Then we had one person, I think, the fourth game who finally graded out. One.”
Times are changing. Thanks in large part to a much-improved offensive line, Franklin Regional (7-1, 6-1) will enter Friday night's game at Derry (0-8, 0-7) with a chance to clinch at least a share of the Greater Allegheny Conference title.
Botta said in the past two games, a 54-7 victory over Hollidaysburg Oct. 11 and a 33-12 triumph over Hampton last week, the majority of offensive linemen have graded out.
“I don't care what level it is — it could be high school, college or pro,” Botta said. “You've got to have an offensive line. You have to. (Our running backs) are running better — (Paul) Emanuele, (Dom) Giannengeli and (Brett) Zanotto — because of what the offensive line is doing.
“In the first few weeks, it was tough because they weren't in synch. They just weren't working together. Now, there's an attitude about them, which I really like (and) which we have to keep playing at.”
Franklin Regional's starting offensive line consists of left tackle Charlie Mazon, left guard Josh Sabo-Pediconi, center Matt Babbit, right guard Jake Pickup, right tackle Sam Sedivy and tight ends Jake Lauer and Dylan Wallace. While Babbit gained some varsity starting experience last season, all seven are full-time starters for the first time.
“The guys last year were really good, so we've been challenged a lot and had to face some adversity,” Sedivy said. “But I think we've taken a good role to it and transitioned pretty smoothly.”
The offensive line has faced significant challenges this year, with injuries posing the biggest problem. Wallace went down with an injury during a scrimmage against Kiski and missed the beginning portion of the season before returning. Adam Mihoci, the starting right guard at the beginning of the season, went down with a season-ending injury in Week 3 against Highlands. Sedivy also missed some time because of injuries.
But while the injuries posed a challenge, replacements stepped up in Lauer (for Wallace), Pickup (for Mihoci) and Nick Fazio (for Sedivy).
“It was pretty hard the first game against Greensburg (Salem), but I've started getting used to it,” Pickup said.
“It's just a good light at the end of the tunnel (that) we have young guys stepping up and everybody's filling roles,” Babbit said. “We had Jake Lauer step up the first week after Dylan got hurt in a scrimmage. Everybody's doing a great job for us, and now we're starting to get people back at the end of the season.”
Along the offensive line, the Panthers start three sophomores in Lauer, Mazon and Pickup and four seniors in Babbit, Sabo-Pediconi, Sedivy and Wallace.
“This is my first year playing high school football, (and) it's tough for me,” Mazon said. “I'm getting used to it. All the seniors are helping me out, and I like it.”
Aside from Sabo-Pediconi, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 287 pounds, Franklin Regional doesn't boast a ton of size along the line. Pickup weighs just over 200 pounds, and Sedivy weighs about 210.
That can make life difficult against some of the bigger defensive fronts in the Greater Allegheny Conference.
“There's definitely some big boys there,” said Sedivy, whom teammates nicknamed “The Technician” because of his ability to use technique against bigger players. “You just have to keep your head up and really try to work as hard as you can.”
Franklin Regional's zone-blocking scheme also takes some of the pressure off the smaller linemen, as it allows to players to block defensive linemen at the line of scrimmage before moving on to linebackers.
As the season has gone on, the offensive line's overall improvement includes better footwork and communication. Botta credited the work of Capozzoli and assistant line coach A.J. Strum, as well as the hard work of the linemen, for the improvement.
And the improvement is bearing tangible benefits. After managing a season-low 65 rushing yards against Highlands, Franklin Regional churned out 346 yards on the ground against Greensburg Salem in Week 4 and 395 against Hollidaysburg. The team is averaging about 203 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry on the season.
“It gets everyone excited,” Sabo-Pediconi said. “Running the ball down someone's throat, that's the best feeling you can have in football.”
With the Panthers about to head into the playoffs for the 10th straight season, the offensive linemen know how much they'll be counted on. They're looking forward to this latest challenge.
“It's definitely an honor to be part of that, to be part of the tradition and keep moving things forward,” Babbit said. “Hopefully, we can break a little tradition this year by going further and further and make a run at (a WPIAL championship).”
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.
- High school football notebook: Official’s decision impacts WPIAL Class AAAA title game
- WPIAL Class AAAA notebook: Pine-Richland has titles in 3 classifications
- WPIAL’s Top 10 football champions of all time
- Pine-Richland tops defending champ Central Catholic to capture WPIAL title
- Central Valley beats rival West Allegheny to win WPIAL Class AAA championship
- Clairton wins 11th WPIAL football championship
- South Fayette again defeats Aliquippa to defend WPIAL Class AA title
- WPIAL Class AAA notebook: Central Valley to face another merger in PIAA playoffs
- WPIAL Class A notebook: Clairton climbs all-time title list
- WPIAL Class AA notebook: South Fayette’s Brumbaugh closes in on state passing record
- From venues to playoff format, much has changed in 100 years of WPIAL championships