Franklin Regional's Dane Brown has become an elite WPIAL running back
Dane Brown stands only 5-foot-7 and weighs 185 pounds, but the Franklin Regional senior doesn't let his diminutive size stop him from playing big.
In fact, Brown uses his size to his advantage.
He's a big reason why Franklin Regional is hoping to play for a WPIAL Class AAA championship in November.
“You'll see on film Dane disappear into a pack, and then all of sudden he breaks free on a long run,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said of his third-year starting tailback. “He's amazing. Teams have a hard time finding him and when they do, he's past them.”
Senior center Luke Fleck remembers a game last year when tackle Joe McGuire was blocking his man and had his arms extended. Brown ran between McGuire and the defender for a touchdown.
“I was running the video and I ran it back a few times,” Fleck said. “It was unbelievable, but that's what Dane does. He does something amazing every game.”
Brown has worked on his strength over the past few seasons and has put on some weight; he played at 165 pounds as a sophomore and 175 as a junior. He said he's gotten stronger so he can endure the punishment of a long season in a physical Greater Allegheny Conference.
Brown comes from a long line of excellent running backs at Franklin Regional, following in the footsteps of a Chad Bowman, Dave Campbell, Robby Armstrong and Myke McAfoose, among others.
Brown rushed for 1,960 yards and scored 34 touchdowns as a junior, and he gained 1,339 yards and scored 18 touchdowns his sophomore season.
And while Brown will get the ball the majority of the time, quarterbacks Nico Lodovico and Charan Singh and backup running backs Paul Emanuele and Brett Zanotto will also be included in the Panthers gameplan.
But Brown isn't worried about a heavy workload. He's stronger than ever and he's been working on improving his speed.
“I've been blessed to coach great running backs here,” Botta said. “Dane is a class individual. Everything he does is the best for the team. He practices hard and works hard. He sets the bar high.”
Botta, like his players, is just amazed what Brown can do.
“No one has caught him once he breaks free,” Botta said. “He's a tremendous running back.”
Brown can't do it himself. It helps that Fleck, McGuire (left tackle), Sean Miller (right tackle) and Adam Mihoci (tight end) all return up front to open holes.
And according to Fleck, it doesn't take much of a hole for Brown to get past the line of scrimmage.
“When Dane sees daylight, he runs through it,” Fleck said. “As long as we do our job, he does his. Our job is to get him 5 yards, and he does the rest.”
Mihoci called Brown a ridiculous runner.
“We're a zone blocking team,” Mihoci said. “You'll lose him in a pile and all of a sudden he breaks out of the pile and he's gone. He's definitely the leader of the team.”
Brown showed that leadership during a photo shoot when he helped the linemen carry shoulder pads all over the football stadium. Then he ran through them like he does opponents.
“Dane never brags, it's all about the team,” McGuire said. “He's so humble.”
Miller, Fleck, McGuire and Brown have been playing together for years. So what Brown does, doesn't surprise Miller.
“Dane seems to find a way every week,” Miller said. “We've seen his act for three years.
“You know he's going to break something big every game. We can't block everyone, but he makes people miss.”
Brown had a five-touchdown game against Albert Gallatin last season. He also rushed for 229 yards against Plum, 226 against Hollidaysburg, 202 on nine carries against Laurel Highlands, 226 against Ringgold and 191 yards and four touchdowns against Greensburg Salem.
In two seasons against Laurel Highlands, he carried 19 times for 424 yards and five touchdowns, and against Hollidaysburg he rushed for 443 yards and five touchdowns. He's had seven games in his career where he surpassed 200 yards.
“The offensive line does a great job getting me to the second level,” Brown said. “And I've had great wide receivers blocking down field. It's been a team effort.
“We have a lot of other playmakers on the team. Nico (Lodovico) is back at quarterback, and he's as much of a leader as me. I'm excited about the competition in the new (Greater Allegheny) conference. Every game is going to be a battle, and it's going to make us better.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-853-2109.