Franklin Regional football finds positives in challenging season

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Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 11:01 AM


If Greg Botta has his choice, he’d be preparing his Franklin Regional football team for a playoff game instead of cleaning his condominium in Myrtle Beach.

But Franklin Regional had its streak of 16 consecutive seasons of playing in the WPIAL playoffs stopped this season after finishing 4-3 overall and 2-3 in the Class 5A Big East Conference.

“On a normal season, we’re in the playoffs,” Botta said. “But this wasn’t a normal season. Luckily, we didn’t have any covid-19 cases on the team, and we were able to play this season.

“Our losses were to playoff teams and two are still playing (Gateway and Penn-Trafford). The streak was broken, but I’m very proud of the team.”

Botta and his staff dealt was a lot of challenges this season from players quitting before the season, to a starter moving to Texas mid-season and all the covid-19 precautions they had to follow.

An inexperienced offensive line was a work in progress for the Panthers. But the positive out of that is four linemen will return for 2021 — Nick Petrucci, Brandon Gaur, Christo Marion and Josh Pelusi.

Max Levin, a 6-foot-8, 312-pound sophomore, is another player Botta expects to blossom next season.

“Winning four games was an accomplishment,” Botta said. “I feel bad for the seniors for not making the playoffs, but we were decimated at the end of the season when we played Penn-Trafford.

“We had kids move and play different positions and they never quit. Luke Reppermund was hurt and couldn’t play the final game, but he still dressed to be there for his teammates. That showed me team camaraderie. We had that and it was huge.”

Franklin Regional will be losing a lot of skilled players to graduation though.

Heading the list is quarterback Trevor Brncic, who completed 74 of 129 passes for 970 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. He also scored three times. Botta expects a three-way battle for the job next season between junior Connor Donnelly and sophomores Logan Donnelly and Roman Sarnic.

“All three are good athletes,” Botta said. “Who doesn’t win the job will still be on the field at a different position.”

He’s also losing senior wide receivers Mario Sarnic, who had 32 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns; Jeffrey Downs, who caught 15 passes for 261 yards and five touchdowns; and Reppermund, who had 14 grabs for 145 yards and two scores.

Back at wide receiver will be junior Caden Smith.

Also graduating are senior running backs Brandon Zanotto, who rushed for 337 yards and three touchdowns, and Colton Johns, who had 196 yards and two scores.

Botta expects junior Tyler Bewszka and freshman Ayden Hudock to battle for the starting running back position.

“With the virus being around, it was a nightmare of a season,” Botta said. “We got seven games in and that was amazing.”

As for Botta’s future as Franklin Regional’s coach, he said he hasn’t made up his mind yet.

“I love to travel and I love to play golf,” said Botta, who just finished his 27th season at Franklin Regional. “And I have yet to see my new grandson in San Diego. I’m not making a decision until after the banquet in January.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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