Franklin Regional thumps Derry, clinches home game
If how you play entering the playoffs is a sign of future performance, Franklin Regional is looking good.
The Panthers made short work of Derry, 62-0, in their regular-season and Greater Allegheny Conference finale at home last Friday, which clinched a home playoff game for the Class AAA football playoffs. The result of that win was the No. 8 seed for Franklin Regional (7-2), which will host No. 9 Elizabeth Forward (6-3) in a first-round game this Friday.
Panthers head coach Greg Botta wasn't surprised at his team's seeding — a three-way tie for the Parkway Conference title meant FR was the only true third-place team to get a home game — nor was he surprised to draw the other third-place team from Class AAA in the first round.
“I knew we'd probably get Elizabeth Forward or Trinity, and it's all about matchups now, in the playoffs,” Botta said. “It's a fair matchup, and they're a good football team.”
The Warriors are making their first playoff appearance since 2005 and are led by run-first junior quarterback JaQuan Davidson. Davidson, who is in his first year at Elizabeth Forward, had 1,024 rushing yards this year and 523 through the air.
“(Davidson) can run and throw. He's a good scrambler, and he's a guy you've always got to know where he's at. He's the big threat in that offense,” Botta said.
Franklin Regional and Elizabeth Forward had two common opponents as a result of nonsection play. Both played Belle Vernon to nearly identical results — 35-7 for the Panthers and 35-6 for the Warriors — while Elizabeth Forward won, 22-8, against a Greensburg Salem team that Franklin Regional beat in conference play, 44-0. Also of note is that none of Elizabeth Forward's wins came against opponents with a winning record.
The Panthers are still trying to shake off injuries to put together a playoff push, but mentally, Botta said, the team is relaxed but focused.
“All the guys are shaving their heads for the playoffs,” Botta said. “When I left (on Monday), they were all getting their buzz cuts.
“I think they're ready to go for the playoffs. We've got guys that are getting healthier each day, so overall, it's positive.”
It would be tough to find too many negatives from FR's win over Derry, as the team scored on its first four and six of its first seven possessions.
Dane Brown had 123 yards and four touchdowns on just six carries before getting the rest of the night off, as Paul Emanuele stepped in to lead the team with 145 yards and two touchdowns of his own, despite two more scores being called back by penalties. Brown's season total now stands at 644 yards, which leaves him just 57 yards short of 4,000 for his career, a milestone he seems likely to reach against Elizabeth Forward, if healthy.
Nico Lodovico connected on touchdown passes of 4 yards to Carter Henderson and 38 yards to Ryan Furr before the team went to halftime with a 42-0 lead. Bryan Gamwo capped off the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, a run that was set up by a blocked punt by Kent Thomas.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.