Gateway looks sharp in opener, rolls past Franklin Regional

Friday, September 11, 2020 | 10:21 PM

The start of Gateway’s WPIAL title defense was a dominant display of offense.

Senior receiver Chamor Price hit the end zone four times in the first half, and the Gators scored touchdowns on their first six drives on the way to a 41-7 win over Franklin Regional in the season and Big East Conference opener for both Friday night.

Price finished with 200 yards and the four scores on his five catches for the Class 5A No. 2 Gators (1-0, 1-0). He was the preferred target of junior quarterback Carsen Engleka, who was 9-for-16 passing for 297 yards and five touchdowns.

Not one to be overshadowed, Gateway senior star Derrick Davis ran for 124 yards and a score on just 12 carries, but Price’s speed on the outside was the standout on the night.

“That’s just how it happens. (Price) made some pretty big plays, but those are the ones that presented themselves with the look that we were getting,” Gateway coach Don Holl said. “You know Davis is pretty good, but Price might be the fastest guy on our team, maybe in the league. He’s lights out, and it’s fun to watch him get going.”

As for Engleka, who pushed for playing time a year ago before a broken wrist derailed his season, Holl was happy to see his young passer with a very good start that included a 69-yard deep score to Patrick Body Jr. along with the four to Price.

“He was challenging for the spot last year, and he might have been our guy down the stretch. We have a lot of hope for what he can become, and he did a lot of good things tonight,” Holl said.

Franklin Regional (0-1, 0-1), meanwhile, looked the part of a team that did not play a scrimmage before the season, as the Panthers struggled to match Gateway’s speed on both sides of the ball in the first half.

The Gators rolled up 394 yards of offense in the first half and limited the Panthers to just five first downs in the first half, three of which came on one drive late in the second quarter.

“We didn’t have a scrimmage, and we didn’t come up to real, live football speed, physicality,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “It was a physical football game, and our kids responded in the second half. I told them, ‘Don’t worry about what the score is.’”

The Panthers got on the board in the third quarter when Jeffrey Downs pulled in a tipped ball for a 4-yard touchdown catch from Trevor Brncic. That capped the first of two long Panthers drives in the second half.

“It’s so hard to convince your guys the score’s 0-0 when it’s not,” Holl said. “I’m not happy with maybe we didn’t play as hard on defense that first (second half) series. I wanted to see us shut the door and say that’s our night.”

The difference in the two teams was illustrated best on what was the Panthers’ longest play.

Colton Johns found a wide-open Downs for a halfback pass completion, but the Gateway secondary recovered with its speed in an instant to hold what seemed like a potential touchdown to a 42-yard completion. The drive ended later when the Gators’ defense forced a turnover on downs.

“We had a kid that was wide open, and I think it was Davis that caught him from behind. We got a nice gain on it, but they would have been gone,” Botta said. “(Gateway) is tremendous. They have nice size, and playmakers all over the field. That team is going to be difficult to beat.”

Listen to an archived broadcast of this game at Trib HSSN.

Matt Grubba is a contributing writer.

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