Franklin Regional defense dominates Greensburg Salem
Franklin Regional's defense 9, Greensburg Salem 0.
That scoreline is just one of many ways to illustrate just how good the Panthers' defense was while taking apart Greensburg Salem, 44-0, for a Greater Allegheny Conference win at home Friday.
Dom Matarazzo had a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown for Class AAA No. 6 Franklin Regional (3-1, 3-1), and the Panthers defense added a safety by stopping Greensburg Salem (1-3, 1-3) running back Tyler Shook on a carry in the end zone. Charan Singh also had his third interception of the season for FR.
“I told them, I don't know if we've ever had a defensive performance like that,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “Those 11, 12, 13 kids that rotated in there, they were just stellar.
“I think the defense wants to make a statement. We gave up 21 points against Mars, and I think they were very upset about that. Now, we've given up three points in our last three games.”
Botta also credited his coaching staff, specifically new defensive coordinator Frank Cortazzo, for putting together and executing a great game plan.
“(The players) had to get accustomed to Coach Cortazzo this year,” Botta said. “We have a lot of starters back but a new coordinator, and I think that marriage is finally starting to happen.”
The Panthers held the Golden Lions to minus-14 yards of offense in the game, and the only Greensburg Salem first down came on a roughing-the-passer penalty against the Panthers. Out of 33 offensive plays total, only 11 gained yardage for Greensburg Salem.
“It's gratifying when (Botta) says it's the best performance,” said Matarazzo, a senior linebacker. “We felt pretty confident out there.
“It's huge when we can generate turnovers and score on defense because it's a momentum builder for our whole team.”
Franklin Regional allowed just 7.5 points per game last year, but now this year's team is ahead of that pace at 6.0, despite the slow start against Mars.
“We might not have been ready for Mars when we played them, but we really feel like we're starting to get back in the swing of things and play like we did last year,” Matarazzo said.
Singh opened the scoring for FR with a 7-yard touchdown catch from Nico Lodovico, and Brett Zanotto doubled the lead withe a 5-yard scoring run.
Matarazzo's interception made the score 21-0 before Paul Emanuele scored on a 5-yard run and Matt Yurko added a 1-yard plunge to hit 35-0 before halftime.
Dom Giannangeli's 3-yard run capped the scoring in a nearly-perfect game — the only major negative being the loss of Zanotto to a leg injury that occurred on a dangerous horse-collar tackle.
The Panthers' defense next gets a hold of a reeling Belle Vernon (1-3) team that hasn't scored an offensive point in two games.
The game is a rematch of last year's first-round playoff game won by Franklin Regional, 28-14, and it is the only nonconference game of the year for both teams.
Kickoff at Belle Vernon is 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.