Class AAA championship notebook
That's my boy: Lenny Gallo Jr. has some bragging rights at the dinner table. After Franklin Regional quarterback Brad Phillips was hurt and left the game, Gallo came in and immediately ran for 47 yards, setting up a quick Panthers touchdown by Robby Armstrong. He is the son of Len Gallo Sr. -- who quarterbacked Penn Hills in 1974-75, played for South Carolina and is Franklin Regional's wide receivers coach.
"I always dreamed of playing in a title game," Gallo Sr. said. "I never made it, but I was so proud seeing my son play in it. I'm proud of all my players."
Writing history: With Franklin Regional winning its first WPIAL title in school history, the Panthers became only the second team in the 26-year history of the Greater Allegheny Conference to win WPIAL honors. Pine-Richland won the other championship in 2003.Franklin Regional also is the first Westmoreland County high school to win a WPIAL football title since Burrell and Belle Vernon brought home titles in 1995. The Panthers lost the '95 title game to Belle Vernon. Franklin Regional got its start in 1962 by way of a merger between Franklin Township and Export high schools. The first big football star for the Panthers was fullback/linebacker Bob Moose, later a pitcher for the Pirates, who tossed a no-hitter against the Mets in 1969.
Key stop: While Franklin Regional's two pass interceptions in the first half were big, the Panthers' key defensive stop in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars were driving might have been more significant. On fourth-and-1 at midfield, Kevin Franz was stopped on a keeper, giving possession to the Panthers. Franklin Regional missed a field goal on the ensuing drive, but the Panthers took more than five minutes off the clock, icing the victory.
Nix nixes surrender: Even though the outcome wasn't in doubt late in the game, Thomas Jefferson linebacker Nate Nix was still working hard. The Pitt recruit blasted through the Franklin Regional line and blocked a punt with 1:23 remaining, giving the Jaguars the ball at the Franklin 10, leading to a late Nix touchdown.
Nix and Franklin Regional two-way lineman John Malecki are Pitt recruits and will make Heinz Field home on game days next fall. "I went up to him after the game, but he didn't feel like talking," Malecki said of Nix.
Stingy defense: Thomas Jefferson was accustomed to yielding little on defense. But on Saturday, Franklin Regional throttled a tough offense, holding the Jaguars to 39 net rushing yards. Dan Giegerich, who came into the game with 1,040 yards on the season, was limited to 3 yards on five carries. Still, Thomas Jefferson's Giegerich and Nix both surpassed 1,000 yards for the season, something rarely seen in high school football. Giegerich finished with 1,043, and Nix had 1,037.Panthers senior Robby Armstrong had a stellar day, rushing for 143 yards on 25 tries to push his season's total to 1,882 yards.
Up next: Franklin Regional will be making its first PIAA playoff appearance against Selinsgrove next weekend at a site and time to be determined. The Seals defeated Huntingdon, 29-13.