Hampton hands Franklin Regional second conference loss
Teams from the Route 8 corridor have given Franklin Regional football some trouble this year.
The Panthers suffered only their second loss of the season last Friday, as they fell on the road against Hampton, 17-13, in a Greater Allegheny Conference battle for first place.
The loss means the No. 8 Panthers (6-2, 5-2) are eliminated from contention for the conference title, which will go to the winner this Friday between the two teams that have beaten Franklin Regional — Hampton and Mars (both 7-1, 6-1).
Franklin Regional, meanwhile, closes out its regular season with a home game against last-place Derry (1-7, 0-7) at 7 p.m. this Friday, but the Panthers still have much on the line.
“There's a lot to play for. We still have a chance to get a home playoff game,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “We could very easily be undefeated right now. Both of the games we lost, we let them slip through our fingers.
“If I was one of our players, I'd be very angry, but you have to take that anger and put it into working hard for the next game.”
With wins by Franklin Regional, Knoch and Hampton this week, second place in the conference would be determined by tiebreaker points, which could end up favoring the Panthers. Even without that set of results, the Panthers still have a chance to be one of the two third-place teams in Class AAA that will get a home playoff game, something Botta hopes to earn.
“I think it's extremely important to get that first (playoff) game at home,” Botta said. “Some teams don't travel very well. We have a very good home record the last few years, and it will be great to fill the stands with our fans for a playoff game.”
Against Derry, the top objective for the Panthers' defense will be stopping Josh Wannamaker, the senior running back who is the Trojans' top rusher, top receiver and one of their leading passers.
On the other side of the ball, Franklin Regional should have no problem moving the ball against a defense that has given up the most points of any Class AAA team. But the first thing Botta wants to see from his team is elimination of the mistakes that cost them against Hampton.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot. It was one of those games where we had opportunities,” Botta said. “We had a guy open in the end zone, and the ball bounced off his fingers. We had an interception right before halftime. The difference was that Hampton made the plays, and we didn't.”
Hampton quarterback Jon Nigro finished 10-for-16 for 243 yards, while Franklin Regional quarterback Nico Lodovico threw for 133 yards and a touchdown to Charan Singh, but he also had three interceptions.
Talbots receiver Eddie Edwards finished with 152 yards, as the usually stout Panthers defense gave up one too many big plays in the first half to let Hampton pull out to a 17-7 lead.
“Nico did not have one of his best games, and he'd be the first to admit it. Charan didn't have a real good game, either, after he played a great game against Knoch,” Botta said.
“My job now is to keep these guys' heads up. We're not going to be perfect every time. We're still a very good team. It's just a matter of regrouping and correcting the mistakes we made, starting this week.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or email@example.com.