Franklin Regional to face simliar opponent, Montour, in opening round
There are a lot of similarities between the Franklin Regional and Montour football programs, especially this season.
The teams square off in the opening round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Franklin Regional with relatively young squads.
Both teams are consistent playoff participants.
Franklin Regional, under Greg Botta, is making its 10th consecutive trip to the playoffs.
The Panthers were WPIAL champions in 2005 and made the semifinals in 2011 and '06.
Since Lou Cerro took over at Montour nine years ago, the Spartans have played in seven straight postseason tournaments.
They were WPIAL champions in 2011 and also made the finals in 2010 and '07.
During that time, the teams have met once in the tournament with Franklin Regional winning 35-20 in 2009, and 2-0 in the 1995 semifinals.
Both teams are young after graduating numerous starters from the 2012 squads.
“We graduated 22 seniors,” Cerro said. “We're going to start six sophomores and two juniors Friday.
“We may be young, but we're getting better every week. This group is growing up.”
Montour (5-4) finished fifth in the always-tough Parkway Conference. The Spartans are led by dual-threat quarterback Tynen Greer and powerful running back Cole Macek.
Greer has thrown for 1,016 yards and rushed for 671 yards. Macek has rushed for 602 yards, while wide receiver D.J. Payne has 23 catches for 509 yards and five touchdowns. Greer and Macek each have eight touchdowns.
“They are big up front and Macek is a physical back,” Botta said. “But the player we have to control is Greer. He's a dual threat. Payne also is dangerous. They're a physical football team.”
Franklin Regional (8-1) was co-champion with Mars in the Greater Allegheny Conference. The Panthers received a higher seed because of their victory against the Planets in Week 1.
“I was hoping we'd be .500 this season,” Botta said. “But we've improved through the season and being seeded shows the respect we get.”
But despite the victory against Mars, Botta wasn't pleased with the way his offensive line played during the first four weeks of the season.
“We grade our offensive linemen and none of them received a grade during the first three games and only one graded out in Week 4,” Botta said. “The offensive line graded out better the last five games.
“We got younger this season because of injuries. We're starting three sophomores on the offensive line.”
Center Matt Babbit, left guard Josh Sabo and right tackle Sam Sedivy, all seniors, started to show leadership. Botta said they mixed well with the sophomores.
The line has helped the Panthers' offense, which averages 33.7 points per game, dominate teams late in the season.
The Franklin Regional defense had four shutouts and only allowed 19 points in the final five games. They entered the playoffs riding a six-game winning streak.
Franklin Regional only returned two starters on offense, and one of those starters, Charan Singh, was moved from wide receiver to quarterback. Singh has thrown for 600 yards and seven touchdowns. He's also rushed for 501 yards and four touchdowns.
Paul Emanuele is the leading rusher with 594 yards and five touchdowns, while junior Brett Zanotto has rushed for 448 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's also thrown a touchdown pass.
Wide receivers Colin Jonov (18 catches, 285 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Casey Colagrande (14-192-4) are Singh's main targets.
One concern for Botta is Montour's 4-2-5 defense.
“It's something we've never gone against,” Botta said. “So we're trying to develop a game plan to go against it.”
Montour is averaging 23.2 points per game, but is allowing 28. The Spartans enter the playoffs following losses to West Allegheny, 37-17, and Moon, 35-21.
Cerro said entering the season he knew Parkway champ West Allegheny was very talented and New Castle had a lot of skill.
“I've been pleased with the progress of the team,” Cerro said.
When Montour lost to Central Valley, 38-0, in Week 2, Greer didn't play while serving a suspension from the Week 1 game.
“We've noticed on film how well Franklin Regional's offensive line has been playing,” Cerro said. “They have a good football team. Coach Botta will have them ready. It's going to be tough, but we'll be ready.”