Fox Chapel scores on 4th down in final minutes to beat Franklin Regional

Friday, September 17, 2021 | 11:39 PM

On a night when defenses ruled, Fox Chapel got just enough big plays from its offense.

Colin Kwiatkowski caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Collin Dietz on a fourth-down play with 4 minutes, 47 seconds left, and that gave the Foxes a 13-9 nonconference win Friday night at Franklin Regional.

The Foxes (2-2) completed four passes in the game — a fifth was wiped out by penalty — but two of them went for touchdowns. Dietz hit Khi’lee Patterson for a 70-yard touchdown on the opening play from scrimmage.

“We fought against ourselves as much as we did Franklin Regional with bad snaps, inconsistent alignment, running poor routes. There’s a lot of things we have to improve on, but I thought our effort was there the entire game, and I thought we played hard to the end,” Fox Chapel coach Tom Loughran said.

The winning drive was set up by Aiden Aluise’s interception that gave the Foxes the ball at the Franklin Regional 29. That came just three plays after a missed attempt at a go-ahead field goal by the Foxes.

Franklin Regional (1-3) battled back after giving up the early touchdown, cutting the lead to 7-3 on a 21-yard Joe Bayne field goal in the first quarter.

That score stood up until halftime, and the Panthers defense controlled much of the game’s action by recording five sacks and three turnovers — a fumble recovery by Ayden Hudock and interceptions by Maddox Morrison and Caden Smith.

“I think our defensive backs have been playing well all year, and our defense is playing well. We just aren’t putting up points, and we’re turning the ball over when we’re getting opportunities,” Franklin Regional coach Lance Getsy said. “That’s where we’re falling short, but that’s what a lack of experience up front does. But I believe in them, and I think we’re going to start doing good things.”

The Panthers put up points in the third quarter after a 51-yard kickoff return by Hudock started the half. With the short field, Franklin Regional went 32 yards in five plays, ending with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Connor Donnelly to Smith for a 9-7 lead.

The game fell back into a defensive battle after that, with both teams bending but not breaking on the next nine possessions.

“They ran the ball better than we would have liked them to against us, and we need to address that and try to get better at it, but there are some positives we can take from (the game). Our grit and determination to stick to it, even when we were down, got us through it,” Loughran said.

Patterson, who finished as the Foxes’ top gainer with 77 yards receiving and 17 rushing, also threw a 44-yard pass to Jacob DeMotte that set up the eventual missed field goal, but that play served to swing field position.

“I thought he did a real nice job as our wildcat quarterback, and he made some things happen. Down at the goal line, we had some miscommunication, we should have had a run and he thought we had a pass on, but he did well,” Loughran said.

Zidane Thomas finished with 54 yards on 14 carries for Fox Chapel, and Tyler Bewszka led the Panthers with 52 yards on 19 carries.

Smith led all players with 97 yards on six receptions for Franklin Regional, as he had success on the outside despite rotating quarterbacks for the Panthers.

Matt Grubba is a contributing writer.

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