Westmoreland high school football notebook: Sophomore Hudock stands out for Franklin Regional

Thursday, September 9, 2021 | 7:17 PM

Ayden Hudock stood in a hallway outside the Franklin Regional football locker room before a practice this week, a half-eaten apple in his hand and an unsatisfied hunger to be a star grumbling in his stomach.

Hudock couldn’t wait to take another bite.

Junior Caden Smith has been a key playmaker so far for the Panthers (1-1), but when it’s not Caden, it’s been Ayden.

Just a sophomore, Hudock is making fast progress for the Panthers — in all three phases of the game. He has two kickoff return touchdowns and a 64-yard touchdown reception.

A 6-foot-1, 176-pound receiver and cornerback, Hudock took a kick back 82 yards for a score and pulled in a long touchdown reception from Caden Smith on a trick play as the Panthers thumped neighboring Plum, 41-12, in the season opener.

Despite a 24-14 loss last week to Kiski Area, Hudock received a kick and took it 84 yards for a score.

First-year Franklin Regional coach Lance Getsy is not surprised to see Hudock making plays so early in his career.

“For a sophomore, he is one of the strongest kids on the team,” Getsy said. “And he is the fastest kid on the team, too. We had it at a 4.5 (40-yard dash). He benches 265 (pounds), power cleans 225 and can squat over 400.”

Hudock has 233 yards on just four kick returns.

“We still expect more,” Getsy said. “He has a lot of upside.”

Despite his talent, Hudock did not feel entitled when he joined the varsity team this year.

“I knew if I went out and worked hard, I could earn playing time,” Hudock said. “The coaches draw up (the kickoff schemes), and my teammates give me the right blocks to open things up.”

The brother of former Panthers receiver and defensive back Devon Powell, Hudock was a star running back in youth football, the main ball carrier who could not be stopped. He hopes to move into the backfield again sooner rather than later.

“I have been a running back my whole life,” he said.

Hudock likes what Getsy and his staff are doing with the program after the baton was passed to them by longtime coach Greg Botta, who retired in the offseason.

“They work us hard and get on us if we mess up,” he said. “They give everyone opportunities, and they’re always excited when you do something.”

Franklin Regional still is not settled on a quarterback. Junior Roman Sarnic and senior Connor Donnelly both are expected to see time, with junior Logan Donnelly still in the mix.

Connor Donnelly was 15 of 20 for 150 yards but had three turnovers last week.

State ranks

The matchup everyone is talking about this week gained a little more sizzle when Penn-Trafford and Belle Vernon cracked the Trib HSSN state rankings.

Both are now No. 5 in their respective classes, Penn-Trafford (2-0) in 5A and Belle Vernon (1-0) in 4A.

The top four in 5A are, Imhotep Charter, Cathedral Prep, Governor Mifflin and Upper Dublin. The teams above Belle Vernon are, Thomas Jefferson, Jersey Shore, Aliquippa and Monsignor Bonner/Archbishop Prendergast.

Jeannette dwindles

Injuries to five players last week knocked an already-banged-up Jeannette team down to 19 available players for Friday night’s game at Ligonier Valley.

To make matters worse, Jeannette coach Roy Hall said senior two-way lineman and team leader Justin Shank has a torn ACL and could be done for the season.

The Jayhawks lost last week to Sto-Rox, 82-0.

Stat check

It’s only two weeks into the season — one week for some — but a quick glance at the statistics shows Greensburg Salem’s Hayden Teska as the leading passer in Westmoreland County. He has completed 25 of 61 passes for 490 yards and three touchdowns.

Latrobe’s Drake Clayton, meantime, is the county’s top rusher with 356 yards on only 18 carries — a 19.8 average.

Jayden Talbert and Ian Tufts of Hempfield are the top pass catchers with 10 receptions each. Cody Ruprecht of Greensburg Salem and Amari Mack of Greensburg Central Catholic have nine grabs apiece.

Cade Yacamelli of Penn-Trafford, Anthony Govern of Southmoreland and Kyle Brewer of Latrobe are tied for the scoring lead with five touchdowns each (30 points).

Looking ahead

It is not often that nonconference games outshine conference games on the schedule, but next week lends itself to that scenario.

Two nonconference games stick out, in particular: Peters Township at Penn-Trafford and Mt. Pleasant at Latrobe.

Penn-Trafford is longing to settle a score with Peters Township.

Peters Township ended Penn-Trafford’s season with playoff wins in 2018 and ‘19, and the Indians edged past the Warriors in Week 2 last year, 24-21.

Penn-Trafford is ranked No. 1 in 5A this week, and Peters Township is No. 4.

Mt. Pleasant and Latrobe are the two highest-scoring teams in Westmoreland County, with the Vikings averaging 51.5 points and the Wildcats 44.5.

Another game to watch next week is Norwin at Central Catholic. Norwin sophomore receiver Jackson Pons left for Central last winter before transferring back.

Central’s quarterback is sophomore Peyton Wehner, who is from North Huntingdon. Wehner came back from a leg injury he suffered last season. His father, Jim Wehner, is an assistant coach at Central. He used to be a head coach at Baldwin, Avonworth and Yough.

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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