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Franklin Regional routs G. Salem

| Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, 10:46 p.m.
Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional running back Brett Zanotto stiff arms Greensburg Salem's Denzell Jackson during their game at Franklin Regional's Panther Stadium in Murrysville on September 21, 2012 Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

When a coach with three decades of experience — which Franklin Regional's Greg Botta has — says his team played the best defensive game he's ever seen, that means something.

Class AAA No. 6 Franklin Regional allowed less than nothing on the defensive side of the ball, holding Greensburg Salem to minus-14 yards on its way to a 44-0 Greater Allegheny Conference win Friday night.

The Panthers (3-1, 3-1) limited the Golden Lions (1-3, 1-3) to one first down, which came on a defensive penalty, and provided scoring of its own on a 43-yard interception return by Dom Matarazzo and a third-quarter safety.

“I told the players that I don't know if we've ever had a defensive performance like that, since I've been here,” Botta said.

“Our kids were well-prepared, and I give a lot of that credit to my coaching staff and defensive coordinator Frank Cortazzo. The last three weeks, we've started slow. But our kids worked hard all week and finally we got off to where we wanted to be.”

From the other sideline, Greensburg Salem's performance looked vastly different than the one the Lions produced to knock off previously unbeaten Hampton, 20-10, last week for their first win.

“We weren't able to establish anything offensively, and they were able to dictate the tempo of the game,” Greensburg Salem coach Casey Cavanaugh said.

“It's the nature of athletics. We had a great win last week, and it was a high. But we're a young team, and there are growing pains. We have to come back Monday and be ready to compete in practice and on Friday night.”

Franklin Regional, which again played without star running back Dane Brown, scored on its first two possessions.

Charan Singh opened the scoring with a 7-yard catch from Nico Lodovico, and Brett Zanotto, who started in place of Brown, scored on a 5-yard run to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead less than eight minutes in.

The Lions' defense stopped Franklin Regional on its next two possessions, but Matarazzo's interception return swung the game completely in the Panthers' favor.

“It's huge when we can generate turnovers, and we can score on defense,” Matarazzo said. “It's a momentum builder for our whole team, and our offense loves it when we can score ourselves.”

Running back Paul Emanuele and fullback Matt Yurko added touchdown runs late in the second quarter as Franklin Regional took a 35-0 lead into halftime.

The safety by the Panthers' defense and a touchdown run by Dom Giannangeli were the only scores in the second half.

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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