Penn-Trafford leans on ground game to defeat Franklin Regional
Penn-Trafford went ground-and-pound in its regular-season finale, and Franklin Regional had no answers for it.
Junior quarterback Gabe Dunlap ran for 106 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, and junior running back Caleb Lisbon rushed for 163 yards and a score in a 30-14 Class 5A Big East victory Friday night at squishy Warrior Stadium.
The fourth-ranked Warriors (8-2, 6-1) have won eight in a row and finished second in the conference behind No. 1 Gateway, which handed them their only conference loss. The playoff-bound Warriors ran their home winning streak to 11.
“The big home game for playoffs makes a big deal,” Lisbon said. “This home atmosphere, this home crowd makes a big difference in our game play here. We have to keep doing what we do.”
Franklin Regional (6-3, 4-3), which fumbled twice and had just eight first downs, also will enter the postseason next week as the fourth-place team from the Big East.
“I have so much respect for their program. They are a strong football team,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “They are very physical, and we knew they would be. They got better and better from (Week 2), and you could see that. We get better, and then we stall.”
Dunlap, who also passed for 95 yards -- all to Dimitri George on four receptions -- ran for a score and threw for another in the first half as the Warriors took a 16-0 lead.
The Warriors dominated possession in the first two quarters and held on to the ball.
“It was huge to take care of business here tonight,” Warriors senior linebacker Niko Rosso said. “We love playing here at Warrior Stadium. Our line handled it tonight. They led our team tonight, and we executed well on offense and defense.”
Lisbon’s 35-yard burst set up Dunlap’s short touchdown for a 6-0 lead. After a sack by junior Peyton Kelly ended a Panthers drive that included a 32-yard pass from Adam Rudzinski to junior Justin Johns, the Warriors put together a deliberate drive.
They marched 87 yards in 13 plays but settled for a 23-yard field goal by Keaton Hier. George caught a 20-yard pass, and Lisbon gained 22 yards on consecutive plays.
“Our line has been getting bigger, stronger and faster every week,” Lisbon said.
Later in the second quarter, George grabbed a short pass from Dunlap and found an opening for a 38-yard score to make it 16-0.
Franklin Regional was driving late in the second quarter and had a potential touchdown pass to Mike Evans negated because the senior receiver stepped out of bounds before he pulled in the catch.
After a score was called back by a hold, the Warriors capped their opening drive of the second half with a 2-yard touchdown by Dunlap for a 23-0 advantage.
“It’s nice to know Gabe can pick up the ball and run whenever he needs to,” Lisbon said. “He is super-athletic and can make people miss.”
Lisbon finally cracked the end zone late in the third on a short run, and it was 30-0. That came after Dylan Schmidt and Petyon Kelly forced a fumble and Rosso recovered for Penn-Trafford with 6:18 left in the third.
Zach Gordon broke one late for the Panthers to prevent the shutout, a 44-yard burst, and Colton Johns added a short score to cut it to 30-14 with 1:37 left.
Gordon ran for 75 yards for the Panthers.