Football - Kiski Area vs Franklin Regional
Pair of Pick Sixes and Recovered Fumble Power Kiski Area to 24-14 Win over Franklin Regional
Four years is a long time to wait to even a score.
The last time Kiski Area and Franklin Regional lined up to battle was the 2017 season. Both were members of the Big East conference and played once a year as section opponents. The Panthers won the last one 19-14 on the natural grass at the Cavalier's old venue, historic Davis Field. Then the WPIAL realigned the conferences the following year, splitting up the two schools districts that share a border, and the annual matchup went on hiatus. Bragging rights stayed with the Panthers.
But that was then and this is now. A lot has changed in four years. Kiski Area now plays their games at Richard J Dilts Field, an almost-new artificial turf stadium on the high school campus. And Franklin Regional has a new head coach this time around. Lance Getsy took over for state champion coach Greg Botta, who retired after 27 seasons at the helm of the Panthers. Getsy got his first win last week with a victory over another border school, Plum. Cavaliers' head coach Sam Albert also brought his squad into the matchup with a 1-0 record, having beaten Butler in Week Zero. A rematch game was on both teams schedules last season, but it was lost to rescheduling necessitated by the pandemic in the original first two weeks of the season. So now it is 2021, and time for the two unbeaten, former annual rivals, to lace 'em up and resume what had been paused four years ago, this time at the Cavaliers' new on-campus digs.
One thing that hadn't changed? These two still play grind-it-out, in-your-face, tough defense football. Making big plays on defense and special teams are another offensive weapon. It was no surprise when the teams went three-and-out against each other to open the game. Then the Panthers mounted a sustained drive late in the first quarter, capped by a Connor Donnelly to Caden Smith 4-yard touchdown toss. Joseph Bayne booted the PAT through and the Panthers led 7-0.
Kiski Area opened the second quarter by punting to the Panthers, but the Cavs quickly used the switch in field position to their advantage. Senior defensive lineman Samuel Coleman picked off a Donnelly pass attempt and scampered the short distance to the endzone. Cody Dykes tacked on the PAT and the teams were knotted at 7.
The Cavaliers got the ball back on a fumble in Franklin Regional territory, but after failing to connect on a 3rd down touchdown pass in the endzone, they settled for a 26 yard field goal off the leg of Dykes to go up 10-7.
The Panthers threatened late in the second quarter when a pass in the endzone intended for Caden Smith was disrupted by Kiski Area's Logan Johnson. Joseph Bayne attempted a game-tying field goal on 4th-and-long, but it fell well short of the crossbar and sealed the Cavs halftime lead.
Kiski Area opened the second half with a bruising drive, led by the running of Brock Wilkins who capped it with a 1-yard plunge at 3:14 of the third. Dykes connected on the PAT to bump the score to 17-7.
But Franklin Regional bounced right back, as Ayden Hudock ran the ensuing kickoff back 84 yards to close the gap to 17-14 after the Bayne PAT.
Unfortunately, any momentum that the Panthers were hoping to build on with their next possession fizzled out when Cavs linebacker Brayden Dunmire notched the second pick six of the night off Donnelly, taking the aerial grab 73 yards to the house. Dykes added the PAT kick for a 24-14 Cavalier lead.
Kiski Area then surprised everyone in the stadium with the ensuing kickoff by recovering an onside kick. They killed a good portion of the fourth quarter clock, turning the ball back to Franklin Regional with only minutes left in the game. But it was too late to make up 10 points, and time expired as Caden Smith was tackled following a final pass reception to end the game. Two pick-six interceptions and the Cavaliers field goal that came off a Franklin Regional fumble were the difference in this well-fought defensive game.
Kiski Area (2-0) travels to Latrobe next week to play a 5A non-conference opponent from Westmoreland County for the second week in a row. Franklin Regional (1-1) will travel to play class 6A Hempfield Area in another Westmoreland County non-conference game.
Watch this link for a full gallery of action photos available for purchase or sharing the day after the game.
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