Franklin Regional rolls into quarterfinals with win over Bethel Park
Franklin Regional football fans witnessed an offensive treat two days after Halloween in Bethel Park.
The No. 9 Panthers even used a pair of first-half tricks to knock off eighth-ranked Bethel Park, 56-28, on Friday night in a Class 5A WPIAL playoff game.
Franklin Regional (7-3) advances to the quarterfinals, and Bethel Park’s season ends at 6-4.
The tricks Franklin Regional employed began in the first play of the game as the Panthers recovered their own onside kick attempt.
“I know (Bethel Park coach) Jeff (Metheny) extremely well, and his kids are always prepared and I had to get the momentum,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “We worked that perfectly. We got the coin flip. We called it, and we executed it.”
The Panthers later picked up a first down on a fake punt, and both trick plays led to first-half touchdowns as the Panthers took a 35-14 lead into halftime.
Franklin Regional quarterback Adam Rudzinski passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more. Michael Evans had three touchdowns among his seven receptions and finished with 243 receiving yards, and Zac Gordon rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
“Coach said before the game that we had to make big plays,” Rudzinski said. “We had to have those playmakers in the game and execute when we needed.”
Rudzinski opened the second-half with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 42-14.
Bethel Park’s Sean McGowan added his second touchdown run at 4:25 in the third quarter, and his 42-yard interception return at 10:14 in the fourth quarter cut the deficit to 42-28.
“Jeff and I are the same: old school,” Botta said. “I knew he wasn’t going to lie down, and I knew we weren’t going to be safe until we got three or four scores ahead. He never quit, and his kids never quit. They were running the ball and hitting big plays. That’s a very physical team, and I try to give Jeff all the credit in the world.”
But Evans leaked behind the defense and caught a 79-yard touchdown pass from receiver Devon Powell at 9:07 to restore the 21-point lead. Gordon completed the scoring with a 12-yard scamper at 6:17.
“We just had to carry the momentum,” Rudzinski said. “I thought we had a lot of momentum going into halftime, and I think it translated in the start of the second half. We carried it the rest of the game.”
Each team scored twice in the opening quarter before Franklin Regional scored three straight times to end the second quarter and take a commanding 35-14 halftime lead.
Rudzinki found Evans for touchdown passes of 26 and 75 yards, then Rudzinski went 65 yards on a quarterback keeper with 1:54 to play in the half to open up the three-score lead.
“We just had to be more sound on defense and keep executing on offense,” Rudzinski said. “We just did what we had to do to win the game.”
The Franklin Regional response came after the Black Hawks erased an early 14-0 defict with touchdown runs from Luke Surunis and McGowan that tied the score 14-14.
Those two scoring runs came after the Panthers grabbed the quick momentum as they recovered the opening onside kick. They took the lead when Rudzinski rolled to his right and found a sliding Justin Johns for a 6-yard touchdown pass at 9:31.
Gordon added a 41-yard touchdown run at 6:25 as Franklin Regional quickly led 14-0.
McGowan finished with two touchdowns and 117 yards rushing to lead Bethel Park. Jehvonn Lewis rushed for 92 yards.