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Experienced Franklin Regional handles young Highlands

| Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, 11:14 p.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Franklin Regional wide receiver Nick Vento stiff-arms Highlands defender Robert Love en route to a first down in the first quarter at Golden Rams Stadium in Harrison on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch

With standout running back Dane Brown watching from the press box with an injured ankle, Class AAA No. 6 Franklin Regional showed its depth Friday night in a 35-3 victory over Highlands in a Greater Allegheny Conference game at Golden Rams Stadium.

Quarterback Nico Lodovico threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and reserve running backs Nick Vento, Brett Zanotto and Paul Emanuele combined for 140 yards as the Panthers (2-1, 2-1) cruised after a slow start.

“We have a stable of running backs,” Panthers coach Greg Botta said. “They showed what they can do.”

The Panthers (2-1, 2-1) needed about a quarter to get going. Once they did, Highlands (0-3, 0-3) had no answer.

One of the larger Class AAA schools in the WPIAL playing one of the smallest, Franklin Regional showed strength in numbers. Highlands has just four seniors.

“We just couldn't match up with them,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said. “We're young and not there yet.”

Highlands took a 3-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal by Mike Masarik. Franklin Regional had a touchdown called back and was flagged for a penalty on a lengthy punt return.

But Highlands stalled and allowed 21 second-quarter points — a 26-yard run by Zanotto, a 1-yarder by Emanuele and 20-yard slant to Colin Jonov.

“They smacked us in the face early,” Botta said. “Highlands is a young team. They're going to be good for years to come.”

Highlands, which had three fumbles and an interception, managed just 60 rushing yards and 38 passing.

“I'm proud of our kids,” Albert said. “We had some injuries. We don't have the kind of depth and numbers they have. They outmanned us.”

Lodovico rushed for 77 yards on five carries.

Botta said he believes his team can improve.

“I didn't think we were very sharp,” Botta said. “I don't know if it's my expectations being so high. We had too many penalties.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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