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Franklin Regional football team puts in work before first win

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Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional quarterback Nico Lodovico threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns in the team's win over Indiana on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, in Murrysville.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
 

Fans got a chance to see Franklin Regional's football team get back on track Friday against Indiana, but the groundwork was laid for the team's first win of the year well before kickoff.

The Class AAA No. 6 Panthers finished with a 35-0 win in Greater Allegheny Conference play over the Indians, thanks largely to a stellar defensive effort that limited the visitors' triple-option offense to just 82 yards of total offense in the game.

Franklin Regional (1-1, 1-1) quarterback Nico Lodovico finished with 282 yards on 12-for-15 passing, and Colin Jonov was his top receiver with 175 yards on four catches, including touchdown receptions of 86 and 65 yards, while Indiana (0-2, 0-2) fell to its second straight lopsided loss.

But one week after his defense was gashed for more than 200 yards by Mars in the season-opening defeat, Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta was pleased with his team's preparation for the next game after a setback.

“I don't know what it was against Mars. I don't know if we saw all the preseason rankings or what, but we were very disheartened by the loss,” Botta said.

“Hopefully, the kids saw a direct relation between how you prepare and how you perform in the game. Our kids said to me that they felt well-prepared for Indiana. Preparing for a game is the same as taking a math test or anything else in school; if you don't prepare, you're going to fail.”

While the defense shined in the game against Indiana, the offense still scuffled somewhat — a strange concept considering the Panthers finished with 472 yards of total offense.

But a series of early miscues led to the second straight slow start for the FR attack, something Botta is keen to see fixed this week.

“I'll be honest. I'm happy with the win, but in the first 15 minutes, we had about eight or nine offensive blunders of some kind,” Botta said. “We probably left some scores out on the field, and while it didn't affect the outcome, if we're playing Mars or West Mifflin or Thomas Jefferson and make those mistakes, we may not come away with the win.”

The Panthers' defense not only was strong stopping the run from a physical standpoint, but it did a good job of reading a deceptive Indiana offense.

Botta hopes preparation like last week's will pay off again this week, when the team goes on the road for the first time to face Highlands (0-2, 0-2) in a conference game.

With only five seniors on their roster, the Rams are one of the youngest teams in the WPIAL, but they come in well-coached and with some quirks to their offense that can give teams trouble.

“They really spread the field out, and they use some unorthodox formations. We have to be prepared,” Botta said. “A lot of people are going to look at their roster and see that they use a bunch of juniors and sophomores. But that sophomore (Josh) Schultheis had a great game against us for Mars, so we know that doesn't matter too much.

“Highlands is going to be very good in a couple of years. They're a good team now, but I don't believe they have the firepower that we do. Should we win? Yes. Can we lose? Definitely, so we need to eliminate the mistakes we made last week.”

The Rams will be playing their first home game of the season against FR. Highlands lost last week, 35-7, at Hampton, a week after a loss on the road at Hollidaysburg, 33-26.

This Friday's game is one of only two regular-season games, and the only conference game, that will kick off at 7:30 p.m. for the Panthers.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com

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