Westmoreland County football Q&A with Franklin Regional’s Bryce Lauer

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 | 5:48 PM

Franklin Regional's head-turning, 13-7 upset last week of No. 1 McKeesport might not have been possible without nicked-up senior linebacker Bryce Lauer, Panthers coach Greg Botta said.

Botta said Lauer was a 50-50 decision on playing Friday. His vision on defense was 20-20.

“There's no doubt,” Botta said. “He was making tackles 24 yards downfield and driving kids into holes in the ground. If we don't have him, who knows, maybe we lose by 20 or 30.”

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Lauer, a fourth-year starter, finished with 20 tackles, including the first six of the game, and has 43 stops against the Tigers in the teams' last two meetings.

And he dominated the Tigers rushing attack on a high ankle sprain. Lauer played defense only in the first half. The Panthers forced three turnovers.

“The kid is so tough,” Botta said. “He played on a broken foot last year. At the start of the game last week I talked to his dad (Bob) and he said, ‘He's playing; it's only a sprain.' ”

Linebacker is a position Botta values greatly. The position is the foundation of his defense-first philosophy. His goal is to maintain a toughness in the program that he has instilled since 1994.

He has coached some outstanding linebackers — Jim Lucas, B.J. Evangelista, Scott Uziel, Nico Lodovico, Carter Henderson, Brett Zanotto and Bennett Verona among them.

Henderson and Zanotto are starting together at Duquesne.

Lauer, who also plays center, has earned his way onto that list. He was a first-team all-state linebacker last season.

“It's his size and tenacity (that sets him apart),” Botta said. “He runs side to side. He is fun to coach; I love the kid. He always wants to play wide receiver on our scout team.”

Franklin Regional's stock has risen and so has Lauer's. The Panthers went from unranked to No. 4 this week in the Tribune-Review rankings. Lauer, who has Division I scholarship offers from Robert Morris and St. Francis (Pa.), is stockpiling new highlights to show larger, FBS-level schools.

He took time during a recent practice to talk upsets, fishing, movies and family.

What was the atmosphere like Friday in the upset of McKeesport?

It was crazy. To be able to pull that off in our opening game, and our first home game, was amazing.

What did the win do for the team?

The biggest thing is that it brought our team together. Our line improved and everyone stepped up. We had fresh rotations.

What was the key to shutting down McKeesport's triple-option offense?

Defensively, our reads were very good. We have been working on stopping that offense since the summer. Our goal was to make them throw the ball.

What do you do for fun outside of football?

I'm an outdoorsy guy. Hunting, fishing, off-roading. I got a five-point buck two years ago. I like trout fishing.

Your brothers, Jake and Cory, played football at Franklin Regional. They inspired you to play?

Yes. I didn't want to play when I was in middle school.

Were your parents good athletes?

My dad (Bob) played baseball but I heard he quit to become a manager at Shop ‘N Save. My mom (Angela) was good in track and basketball. My sister (Halen) plays lacrosse (at Franklin Regional).

Favorite movie?

“I Am Legend.”

Can't-miss TV show?

I like to watch the Discovery Channel.

Twitter or Facebook?

Facebook. I like the videos on there; some funny ones. My dad has kind of hijacked my Twitter for football stuff.

Favorite place to eat?

North Park Lounge. I get a burger. I always get a burger, wherever I go.

Any pregame rituals?

I always wear the same (pink-and-black) tie and I always eat the same meal for lunch: two turkey sandwiches, a banana and a water.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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