Franklin Regional routs Elizabeth Forward
After nursing an ankle injury the last few weeks of the season, there were some doubts whether running back Dane Brown would be an effective weapon for the Franklin Regional offense in the playoffs.
Elizabeth Forward certainly will attest that Brown's ankle is just fine.
Brown went over the 4,000-yard mark in his career with a 41-yard first quarter touchdown run, the second of three he scored in the first half, to lead eighth-seeded Franklin Regional (8-2) to a 44-7 victory over No. 9 Elizabeth Forward in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs. Brown finished with 22 carries for 148 yards and four touchdowns, and now has 4,092 yards in his career.
“It was pretty awesome,” Brown said of reaching the career milestone. “I got an ovation from the crowd, my family was all in their normal spot and it was really special to get it here at home.”
Franklin Regional will play top-seeded Thomas Jefferson (10-0) in the quarterfinals on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at a site to be determined. The Panthers have lost their last two postseason meetings with the Jaguars since pulling off a 31-14 upset in the 2005 WPIAL Class AAA championship game at Heinz Field in their state championship season.
“It's always been battles and (Jaguars coach Bill) Cherpak does a great job and he gets his team fired up,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “But we're down to eight now and any of those eight teams can win it and I believe we're one of them.”
Franklin Regional dominated the line of scrimmage and harried Elizabeth Forward junior quarterback JaQuan Davidson at every turn. Davidson, who came into the game with 1,024 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground this season while running the Warriors read-option, was held to minus-5 yards on six first half carries.
“We knew coming in that they were big up front and we faced similar sized fronts and had a little bit more success,” Elizabeth Forward coach Mike LeDonne said. “We had problems with the odd-stack all year, they shut down our running game and we tried ot go to the passing game.”
Elizabeth Forward (6-4) had a couple of special teams gaffes cost the team in the first quarter and helped Franklin Regional jump out to an early lead. On the Warriors first drive, a bad snap was muffed in the end zone by punter Brandon Janicki, who was forced to run it out and only got to the Panthers 12, four yards short of a first down. Brown ran both plays and converted the second carry into a 7-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 4:59 into the game.
On the next Warriors drive, Davidson tried a fourth down pooch punt at the Franklin Regional 38, but the ball was blocked and the Panthers recovered at the Elizabeth Forward 41. After an incomplete pass, Brown took a handoff and broke several tackles for a 41-yard score that gave Franklin Regional a 14-0 lead.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.