Shaler stuns Franklin Regional as Panthers no longer unbeaten

Saturday, September 21, 2019 | 8:21 PM

The Shaler Area community always celebrates homecoming with a massive parade down Mt. Royal Boulevard leading to Titans Stadium and a Saturday afternoon football game.

It took a quarter, but the big pregame festivities carried over to the game as Shaler marched up and down the field on Franklin Regional.

Trailing by 10 after one quarter, the Titans scored 28 of the game’s final 35 points to pull off a 28-17 upset of the previously unbeaten Panthers in a Class 5A nonconference game.

“The battle cry this week was take your homecoming back,” Shaler third-year coach Jim Ryan said. “We haven’t had a homecoming win in eight years. It’s time these guys enjoy the atmosphere along with a win.”

It didn’t look good early. A fumbled punt return set up a Franklin Regional 38-yard field goal by Jacob Brand.

On their next drive, the Panthers drove down inside the 1-yard line, where junior quarterback Trevor Brncic dove in to make it 10-0 Franklin Regional as the first quarter ended.

“I knew this team wasn’t going to lay down, especially on homecoming day” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said about the Titans’ early deficit. “Once they got that spark and had a long drive and scored, I knew it was going to be a tough football game.”

Shaler dominated the second quarter with two long drives. The first ended on a 4-yard run by 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior running back Jake Miller.

The next time the Titans touched the ball, they marched 93 yards and took 7 minutes, 30 seconds off the clock to take the lead for good on an 8-yard run by 5-10, 155-pound sophomore running back Josh Miller.

“They’re a great complement to one another,” Ryan said about the Miller brothers. “You got the big bull up the middle and the quick, shifty guy who can take it outside. We’re so lucky to have those two.”

The second half began with a bang for the Titans as senior Shayn Skelly returned the second-half kickoff 60 yards to the Franklin Regional 30.

It was one of two big returns for Skelly that helped the Titans work with a short field in the second half.

“Against Latrobe, we gave up two 90-plus-yard kickoff returns,” Botta said. “We got to fix that.”

Shaler capped the drive on a third-and-goal from the 12-yard line with a marvelous catch in the corner of the end zone by senior Joey Impavido off a Darin Mizgorski lob pass.

“I had a corner route, so I was supposed to hit the back corner of the end zone,” Impavido said. “I saw Miz coming over, so I put my hand over and he just laid it right in, perfect ball.”

Said Ryan: “Joey is a big play-maker. I don’t know how many times I have seen him in the back of the end zone dragging his toes like that.”

Franklin Regional pulled within four late in the third quarter when Brncic connected with a sliding Jeffrey Downs in the end zone.

The Titans answered as they powered their way down the field, capped by another Jake Miller 4-yard run.

The end result may surprise some, but it did not stun Botta.

“I was real impressed with the way they look on film, how they come off the ball, how they run their power game. This is a big win for them that could catapult them into the second half of the season.”

The Panthers (2-0, 3-1) lose for the first time this season. Brncic threw for 79 yards on seven completions, and senior running back Zac Gordon led Franklin Regional on the ground with 75 yards on 20 carries.

Jake Miller led Shaler (1-1, 2-3) with 89 yards on the ground, and Mizgorski threw for 78 yards on six completions, five of which went to Impavido.

The Titans return to Northern Conference play Friday at Mars.

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