Franklin Regional boys bowlers vie for section championship

Friday, February 1, 2019 | 7:48 PM

Just get in baby. That’s sort of a spin on the late Al Davis’ Oakland Raiders motto, but for the two-time defending champion Franklin Regional boys bowling team it doesn’t matter how it looks, they just need to get in the tournament.

“We want to move on to postseason,” Franklin Regional coach Gwen Richards said. “We would love to be, obviously, three-time section champions, but at this time we just want to make sure we secure the playoffs.”

After two months of matches, Franklin Regional (7-1) has clinched a spot in the Western Pa. Interscholastic Bowling League tournament set for 3 p.m. Feb. 13 at Plum’s Nesbit’s Lanes. The only thing that remains is to determine whether or not Franklin Regional will walk through the doors as WPIBL Southeast division co-champs with rival Hempfield (8-0), or as second-place finishers. Stay tuned.

“Now that they’ve been (to the postseason) a couple of times, I think they think they just need to get back the postseason part,” Richards said. “They’re working for the postseason.”

Franklin Regional was scheduled to face Hempfield on Wednesday and Yough Thursday to close out the regular-season schedule. Yough is a make-up match that was postponed last week.

With two weeks between matches, Richards said she’s not that worried about her bowlers losing their edge going into the final week of the regular season, especially against heated rival Hempfield.

“Honestly, it’s kind of nice,” Richards said about the short layoff. “It breaks up the season, especially when we finish out the season with back-to-back matches (this) week. Plus, they’re really excited about the Hempfield match.”

A break might be exactly what the Panthers need going into their penultimate match verse the Spartans. Franklin Regional’s one blemish in its record came in an early-season December loss to the Spartans. The Panthers are a different team now.

“I think that our team was new at bowling together and they were not bowling as a team that day,” Richards said. “They were bowling as individuals and you can’t do that, especially against a team like Hempfield. It was a very, very tight match.”

The Panthers are going to rely heavily on junior anchor Alex Smith and senior Jack Strobel. Smith leads the team with a 202 average and Strobel is close behind with a 198. At the moment, and barring any meltdowns along the way, both have qualified for the WPIBL individual championships set for Feb. 20 at Wildlife Lanes in Burrell. Bowlers must finish the season with an average above 170 to advance.

“They’re both bowling well and are the most consistent,” Richards said.

The final week of the regular season is huge for senior Zach Jackson (179), junior Graham Klemstine (171), and up-and-coming freshman Mike Zeyzus (177) as they are all on the cusp of the 170 cutoff. Richards is impressed with Zeyzus’ progress this season.

“He’s doing very, very well,” Richards said. “I thought he would be a lot more inconsistent but he’s exceeded expectations.”

It might not seem like it from a wins and losses perspective but the Franklin Regional girls team (4-4) is trending upward. While the Panthers are pretty much locked into a fourth-place finish in the Southeast division and eliminated from the postseason, the Panthers have the potential to do something that hasn’t been done in more than a decade. The Panthers have the potential to send four bowlers to the individual championships.

“We haven’t taken four girls to individuals in over 10 years,” Richards said. “That shows you just how good these teams (in the division) are also.”

While senior Kenna Gray (164) and junior anchor Alaina Jenkins (162) are virtual locks for the individual tournament, it’ll come down to how freshman Sarah Robinson (143) and senior Faye Metzger (143) perform in the final week that will determine if the Panthers get four bowlers through or not. The girls still have something to shoot for when they take to the lanes against Hempfield. A 140 average is the cutoff on the girls side.

“Making individuals at this point is a priority,” Richards said. “It’s going to be an interesting day.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.


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