Quarterback's return fortifies FR
After missing the past two games due to injury and sickness, Franklin Regional senior quarterback Lenny Gallo returned to the starting lineup to lead the Panthers to a 48-8 homecoming victory over Knoch on Friday.
Gallo threw for 86 yards and one touchdown on 6-of-9 passing, rushed for 42 yards and two scores and led the Panthers to the end zone on each of their five first-half possessions.
"It was so exciting (to be back)," Gallo said. "It felt like the first game of the season all over again. It was great to be back in battle with my teammates."
Franklin Regional opened the scoring when Gallo tossed a 30-yard bullet off his back foot to Matt Giugliano in the back of the end zone.
Knoch's Dan Pickard returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards but coughed up the football near midfield. Franklin Regional's Nick Segiel came out of the pile with the ball, giving the Panthers good field position.
Just 2:15 later, FR was up, 14-0, as Gallo scampered 27 yards for a touchdown behind lineman Alex Fleming. Gallo showed no lingering effects of an ankle injury suffered in Franklin Regional's only loss this season, to Pine-Richland.
"We're healthy. We got Alex back. Lenny's back," said Panthers coach Greg Botta. "We had our whole package back in. And Lee (Howatnek) is healthy. He had his best game this year."
Howatnek showed off his healthy ankle that has hampered him for much of the season, rushing for 153 yards. The senior speedster scored three first-half touchdowns on runs of 4, 55 and 3 yards and totaled 133 yards on 17 carries during the first two periods.
"Our line was great, opening up big holes," Howatnek said. "All I had to do was run through them. There wasn't really too much to read, just run where the big gaping holes were."
Knoch was able to get on the board late in the half, as junior tailback Alex Whistler bowled through the Panthers' line for a 4-yard score. Quarterback Zack Gross hooked up with Pat Walker for the two-point conversion.
The Panthers took a 35-8 advantage into the half.
Franklin Regional took the ball to start the second half and increased the lead for a sixth straight possession.
The Panthers put together a 10-play drive, covering 60 yards, capped off by a 1-yard run by Gallo. The drive was kept alive by a personal foul penalty on Knoch following a third down stop near the goal line, awarding the Panthers a new set of downs.
The tally put Franklin Regional ahead, 41-8.
Knoch tried to rally during the third quarter, but crucial penalties and an inability to pick up the FR blitz stalled each drive and forced punts.
The Panthers would score again in the fourth quarter on a David Hysong run from 2 yards out, making the score 48-8 and enacting the mercy rule.