Moon slams Franklin Regional, gets back in playoff win column

Friday, November 1, 2019 | 11:32 PM

In its first playoff appearance since 2014, fourth-seeded Moon cruised to a 35-7 victory over Franklin Regional in the opening round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs Friday night.

The postseason victory is the first for the Moon program since 2006, when it defeated Belle Vernon in the first round of Class AAA playoffs.

The Tigers scored on their second drive of the game, putting together an 88-yard touchdown march that gave them a lead they didn’t relinquish.

Dante Clay hit Dawson Snyder on an 8-yard pass to make it 6-0. On the play, Snyder broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage on a pass in the flat to the left side of the offensive formation.

Moon (9-2) added to its lead on a 7-yard run by Jamal Littlejohn with 5 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first half. After the extra point, the Tigers had a 13-0 lead.

Then, the Franklin Panthers offense imploded.

Panthers junior quarterback Trevor Brncic fumbled a jet sweep at his own 15-yard line, which set Moon up for another score. The play was controversial, as the Panthers’ coaches argued it should have been an incomplete pass as they felt Brncic flipped the ball to receiver Jerraine Turner instead of handing it off. After the referees convened, they ruled the play a fumble.

Three plays later, the Tigers extended their lead to 20-0 on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Clay to Dylan Sleva. It was a beautiful throw off of Clay’s back foot as he was being pressured after being forced from the pocket, finding Sleva in the front-right corner of the end zone.

On its next possession, after driving the ball deep into Moon’s territory, Brncic threw an interception with less than a minute left on the first-half clock. Brncic was hit by Sleva as he released the ball and sophomore Ben Bladel took the interception back to the Franklin Regional 25-yard line.

After the Panthers defense stiffened, Moon settled for a 42-yard field goal attempt by Jacob Zimmerman, which missed wide left. But the Panthers roughed Zimmerman on the play, giving him another attempt, this time from 27 yards out. He converted for a 23-0 halftime lead for Moon.

The Tigers added two third-quarter touchdowns on a 23-yard pass from sophomore QB Ty McGowan to Brady Panucci and a 1-yard touchdown run by Littlejohn.

Moon’s quarterback tandem of Clay and McGowan finished the game a combined 14 of 19 for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

Tigers coach Ryan Linn was happy with his team’s performance, especially on defense.

“Those guys have been playing lights out since Week Zero,” Linn said. “They cause havoc and make everything difficult for opposing teams. Our defensive line is our best unit on this football team.”

Franklin Regional (4-5) broke up the shutout with 40 seconds left in the game as Brncic found Brock O’Block on a 12-yard scoring strike.

“Ryan has done a great job, taking a 2-8 team to a 9-2 team now” Franklin Regional’s Greg Botta said. “He’s got those kids believing in themselves out there and they fought hard. We just didn’t make the plays that we needed to make and they did.”

With the victory, the Tigers will face Allegheny Eight Conference rival Peters Township in the quarterfinals. Moon defeated Peters Township at home in the regular season, 21-13, on Oct. 4.

“You never want to look ahead past the first round, but we saw Peters Township sitting there next to us in the bracket,” Linn said. “It’s going to be a great game.”

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