Franklin Regional trounces Hempfield to clinch at least a share of Big East title

Friday, October 14, 2022 | 11:32 PM

Franklin Regional clinched at least a share of the WPIAL Class 5A Big East Conference title Friday by playing nearly a perfect football game.

The Panthers (5-2, 4-0) scored on their first five possessions and rolled to a 56-21 victory against Hempfield to celebrate senior night. It was the Panthers’ first conference title since 2013.

Junior wide receiver Ayden Hudock and senior quarterback Roman Sarnic were too much for the Spartans, who lost their third consecutive game after starting the season 5-0.

The Spartans (5-3, 1-2) played without starting quarterback Jake Philips and senior center Logan Eisaman for the second consecutive game. Phillips was injured in the first quarter of the Gateway game Sept. 30.

If the Spartans want to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs, they must win their final two games: at Plum (Oct. 21) and Norwin (Oct. 28).

Hempfield picked up a first down on its initial possession, but junior quarterback Keiran Lippman was stopped by sophomore defensive end Brent Hickey on fourth down, and the momentum quickly shifted toward the Panthers.

Two 12-yard runs by Sarnic set up senior running back Zach Bewszka, who raced 30 yards for the game’s first score. Bewszka injured his shoulder on the next series and miss the rest of the game.

It didn’t matter. Sarnic connected on a 41-yard score to Hudock on the next possession for a 14-0 lead, and the rout was on.

“It was the best week of practice we had all season,” Sarnic said. “We had the mindset all week, and we came out more physical than in any game. The offensive line did a great job blocking and opening holes for the running game. We played physical from the start.”

The Panthers weren’t done in the opening quarter. Sarnic raced 14 yards for a score on the third possession, and after a Hempfield turnover, Sarnic connected on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Hudock to make it 28-0 with 27 seconds left in the first quarter.

“We usually come out slow, but we had the mentality to come out fast because we had a chance to do something great here in a long while.” Hudock said. “We were hyped up and pumped up in the locker room before the game.”

Sarnic had a huge night. He ran for 166 yards and completed 7 of 12 passes for 199 yards. Hudock caught five passes for 174 yards and two scores. Hudock finished with four touchdowns.

Franklin Regional played hard, and it played physical and we didn’t match it,” Hempfield coach Mike Brown said. “They made plays. We didn’t.

“We’re not playing with a lot of confidence right now. We watched and let them make plays. We think everything is going to be handed, and we’re finding out the hard way it’s not.”

Sophomore Kyle Dupill replaced Bewszka in the backfield, and his 17-yard touchdown run of the fifth possession made it 35-0.

“I like what our sophomore did,” Franklin Regional coach Lance Getsy said. “He did his job. The boys were excited and knew what was at stake. The seniors did not want this to be their last game in this stadium.”

Hempfield got some life when punter Joshua Reilly took off after bobbling the snap and raced 14 yards for a first down. The play ignited two quick scores by the Spartans.

Lippman connected on scoring strikes of 26 yards and 19 yards to Daniel Katonka to cut the lead to 35-21. Lippman completed 7 of 18 passes for 70 yards. Katonka had six catches for 63 yards.

But Hudock ended the Spartans hopes of a comeback by returning the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown to make it 42-14 at halftime.

“The kids are always going to give effort and give it their all,” Brown said. “But, again, on the kickoff, we watched them make the play.”

Hudock said after allowing the two scores, a play need to be made to get the momentum back.

Touchdown runs of 15 yards by Sarnic and 8 yards by Hudock made it 56-14 and induced the mercy rule (running clock) in the third quarter.

“This was probably our most complete game offensively we played all season,” Getsy said. “Winning the conference was huge because everyone picked us to be last. These boys didn’t quit.”

Hempfield senior Gino Caesar ran for 151 yards and scored on a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter.

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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