Westmoreland high school football notebook: Franklin Regional seeks better result against Gateway

By: HSSN Staff
Thursday, November 8, 2018 | 6:15 PM


The number 63 haunts Franklin Regional.

For a program with a proud playoff tradition, one built on defense, the Panthers admitted to being embarrassed after a 63-3 loss to vaunted Gateway in Week 6.

It was their worst loss since 2003.

Some Franklin Regional teams of the past didn’t give up 63 points over a six-game stretch, let alone lose by 60.

“That’s not us,” Panthers coach Greg Botta said.

Gateway (11-0) dominated the Panthers (7-3), but the teams will meet again Friday in the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals at Norwin. Botta expects better preparation to make the score much closer.

Botta said his ninth-seeded team will be sharper the second time around against the No. 1 Gators.

“Don Holl is an excellent coach,” Botta said of his counterpart at Gateway. “Some people look at that score and think they ran it up. No, that was not the case. They came to play. Their kids were ready and ours were not, and that is on us coaches.”

Franklin Regional was passing out helmet stickers like candy this week as it prepared for Round 2. The Panthers went to the air to pull out a first-round win that many didn’t see coming.

Quarterback Adam Rudzinski completed 10 of 15 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns — all to senior Mike Evans — as the Panthers rolled to a 56-28 win over No. 8 Bethel Park.

Momentum is not an issue, but it will take more than that to run with Gateway.

“We have to play smart,” Franklin Regional senior receiver and strong safety Nick Leopold said. “It’s hard to simulate their speed in practice.”

Gators quarterback Brendan Majocha threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns, and also ran for 110 yards and three scores against the Panthers on Oct. 5. Gators’ wideout Courtney Jackson caught two touchdown passes, one for 73 yards, and threw another on a trick play as the Gators erupted for a 56-3 lead by the half.

The final yardage totals read: Gateway 559, Franklin Regional 167.

“They have great skill and make plays in space,” Botta said. “We have to wrap up and tackle. We didn’t do that well enough last time. We have to possess the ball and play great defense.”

Friday’s winner gets the winner of Woodland Hills (5-6) and West Allegheny (8-2) in the semifinals.

Oh, brother

Penn-Trafford junior running back Caleb Lisbon ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s first-round win over North Hills. He now has 1,959 yards and passed his brother, Jonah, for seventh on the Warriors’ all-time rushing list.

Recruiting trail

Yough standout running back Dustin Shoaf, fresh off back-to-back WPIAL rushing titles, picked up a scholarship offer from Seton Hill.

Shoaf, who rushed for 5,053 career yards, now has three PSAC offers. The others are Cal (Pa.) and Slippery Rock.

• Division II Lake Erie College offered Greensburg Central Catholic quarterback/defensive end Max Pisula. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior threw for 1,376 yards and 20 touchdowns this season for GCC (7-3).

Where it all started

Seth Howard made his debut at quarterback for Jeannette last season in the WPIAL quarterfinals against Rochester.

After joining the team a few weeks into the season, he took the reins in the second half with Jeannette down by 10. He led a come-from-behind victory, throwing a touchdown pass to Isaiah Winters with 54 seconds remaining for a 30-26 final.

The teams meet again in a second-round game Friday night at Canon-McMillan, and Howard hopes to once again have an impact.

He said his game has improved steadily over the past year.

“It’s come a long way,” he said. “I have learned so much and gotten better at the position. I feel like if we can pass the ball well we should be in a good position to win the football game.”

Howard said Jeannette misread Monessen last week. The Jayhawks, listless from the start, escaped with an 18-14 quarterfinal win.

“Coach (Roy) Hall always tells us to never underestimate your opponent,” Howard said. “But we did. We felt because we won so big (against Monessen) last year that we would do the same as this year.”

Hawks of fame

It is no surprise that Jeannette’s inaugural Jayhawk Athletic Hall of Fame class will have a strong football presence.

Of the dozen individual inductees and one team, nine had an impact on the gridiron.

Among the inductees are Dick Hoak (Class of 1957), Steve August (‘72), Dante Wiley (‘83), Terrelle Pryor (2007), Joe Mucci (coach from 1968-85) and the 1956 team, which won the school’s first WPIAL title. Hoak played at Penn State and for the Steelers, also coaching with the latter, while August played in the NFL, mostly for the Seattle Seahawks, after he left Tulsa.

Pryor was the top recruit in the country coming out of Jeannette and played at Ohio State before entering the NFL and playing for eight teams, including a current stint with the Buffalo Bills.

Extra points

Only 10 teams in Pennsylvania have won 700 football games. Next season, Greensburg Salem could become the 11th. The Golden Lions are six victories away from the milestone. … Penn-Trafford will take a 12-game home winning streak into next season. The Warriors are 44-5 at Warrior Stadium under coach John Ruane. … Could high-powered Ligonier Valley be an underdog next week? The seedings would say yes. The No. 2 seeded Rams could face No. 1 Richland in the District 6 championship.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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