East-West game to provide showcase for Franklin Regional
Franklin Regional football coach Greg Botta recently found himself making hotel reservations locally for nearly 70 of the top high school football players in Pennsylvania.
It wasn't a typical job, but Botta didn't mind the reason behind it. Franklin Regional High School will host the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association's East/West All-Star Game, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. May 4.
“Being here as long as I have, I have a lot of personal pride in the school and our program,” Botta said. “It's just another opportunity to showcase our field to people who haven't seen it. We expect a nice crowd if it's a nice day. It's great for Westmoreland County to have it out here. We're kind of the Cinderella county, but there's a lot happening out here.”
This marks Franklin Regional's first time hosting the East/West game, which is one of the top Pennsylvania All-Star games for high school football seniors. The game was held for 10 years at Altoona's Mansion Park, but it took a one-year hiatus in 2011 because of a lack of sponsorship.
The game returned in 2012, when it was hosted by Gateway, and was held in Downington last year.
“We wanted to make sure everybody got a piece of the pie in terms of moving the game around,” PSFCA executive manager Garry Cathell said. “When we started back with (the game), we decided we'll go one time on the east, one time on the west and if at all possible, when we moved from (one) side of the state to (the other) side of the state, maybe go to some different high schools.”
Several factors played into the PSFCA's decision to hold the East/West game at Franklin Regional. The game's sponsor is Allegheny Health Network, which also sponsors Franklin Regional, and Botta is a member of the PSFCA's executive board. PSFCA President Homer Delattre said Franklin Regional's proximity to major highways also played into the decision.
The PSFCA also sponsors the annual Big 33 game, and the East/West game gives additional seniors a chance to play in an All-Star game. The East/West game features 34 players from each side of the state.
“Pennsylvania has such a great football tradition and rich history,” Delattre said. “It's hard to say, ‘Here's 33 players that are going to play in this Big (33) All-Star game. We thought it was important to get the other 68 players an opportunity to play. We still have a number of Division I players. There's guys in the NFL that played in this game. It's a very important thing.”
The West roster will include Franklin Regional senior Colin Jonov, a defensive back who is committed to Bucknell.
“I wasn't really expecting it,” Jonov said. “I'm really honored and excited to be part of it. I didn't see it coming. It was a pleasant surprise.”
Delattre said rosters were still being finalized as of late last week, but preliminary rosters included nearly two dozen players from the WPIAL and Pittsburgh City League.
Jonov will have the opportunity to play on his home turf for one last time.
“It adds to it big-time,” he said. “My senior night and (first-round) playoff game I thought would be my last home game. Now it's a nice little treat that I get to play at home once more.”
Botta said hosting the game would provide a showcase for the district, as well as for local municipalities and area businesses.
“It's just great having everything in this area here,” he said. “It's a privilege to host it. It's a privilege to work the game and be one of the site managers for the game.”