After come-from-behind win, Franklin Regional prepares to face No. 2 Penn-Trafford

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 | 6:44 PM

If the Penn-Trafford football team was thinking this year’s battle with neighboring rival Franklin Regional was going to be an easy one, the Panthers’ impressive come-from-behind win last week definitely caught their eye.

Franklin Regional, under first-year coach Lance Getsy, rallied from a 26-point deficit in the first half to stun Latrobe, 41-40.

“It’s was impressive,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said about the comeback. “It shows the character of the team. They certainly could have tanked it, but they found away to win. It opened some eyes.”

Franklin Regional (3-5, 2-1) used a trick play — the hook-and-lateral — to score right before halftime. Getsy said executing that play gave the team life.

Now they take that momentum into Friday’s battle against No. 2-ranked Penn-Trafford (6-2, 3-0) in a WPIAL Class 5A Big East Conference contest at Warrior Stadium.

“My team hasn’t quit on each other all season,” Getsy said. “Hopefully, the win puts us in the playoffs, and gives us some momentum against Penn-Trafford.

“We have the athletes to compete against anyone we play. Hopefully, the win gives up the confidence to do so.”

Injuries and other variables have slowed down the Panthers. They’ve lost close games against Woodland Hills, Kiski Area, Hempfield, Fox Chapel and Bethel Park.

Two seniors, lineman Josh Pelusi and linebacker Garrett Deller, haven’t played a down yet this season, and sophomore wide receiver Ayden Hudock and junior lineman Max Leven missed last week’s game. Getsy said they’re all working to get back this season.

“Our defense has played well all season,” Getsy said. “It was our offense and special teams that hurt us early in the season. But the players continue to battle, and we’re starting to play well.”

Quarterback Connor Donnelly leads the Panthers’ attack. He’s completed 74 of 140 passes for 754 yards and seven touchdowns. His top receivers are senior Caden Smith (29 catches for 343 yards) and Maddox Morrison (22 for 246).

Tyler Bewszka leads the ground attack with 339 yards and Smith has added 144. Smith has completed 5 of 9 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Smith has scored seven touchdowns and Hudock six.

The Panthers’ offense will face a Penn-Trafford defense that has been getting after opposing offenses. Conlan Greene has eight quarterback sacks.

“When we play Franklin Regional, it’s always a physical battle,” Ruane said. “We’re playing better because we’re not turning the ball over and giving away possessions. We’ve also cut down on penalties. Those losses early in the season were a wake-up call.”

The Warriors, who lost nonconference games to Belle Vernon and Peters Township in Weeks 2 and 3, rely on a strong running attack led by senior Cade Yacamelli, a Wisconsin commit, and quarterback Carter Green.

Yacamelli has rushed for 915 yards, has eight catches for 122 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Green has rushed for 688 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s improving as a thrower, completing 47 of 81 passes for 677 yards and four touchdowns.

Kicker Nathan Schlessinger is another weapon with six field goals, including a school-record 48-yarder against Connellsville last week.

Another reason for the team’s success is the play of the defensive line.

“We’re playing well defensively, and that’s because the defensive line is occupying blockers to allow the linebackers to make plays,” Ruane said. “Class 5A is crazy. Everyone has their ups-and-downs. The early losses pointed out our flaws. Hopefully, we continue to get better.”

Getsy said Penn-Trafford is playing with a lot of confidence and will be a stern test.

“You have to be prepared for anything from John,” Getsy said. “He makes you prepare for a lot of things. We just have to keep fighting and not give up, like we did at Latrobe.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at

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