Football - Franklin Regional vs Hempfield
Franklin Regional Claims Conference Title with 56-21 Rout of Hempfield on Senior Night
In a season where the answer to the question "Who is the top team in the Class 5A Big East Conference?" seemed to change every week, Franklin Regional can clear space in the trophy case for the hardware that puts that query to rest. The Panthers put on an impressive performance over upstart Hempfield in securing their first conference title since 2013 with a 56-21 senior night rout of the visiting Spartans on Friday, October 14, at Panther Stadium in Murrysville.
Classification changes and conference realignments prior to the season set up the Big East conference to be one of the most competitive in the WPIAL. Recent WPIAL champions Penn-Trafford and Gateway were in the conversation from day one, and Hempfield created a buzz with their 5-0 start, the best in 50 years. Plum and Norwin round out the schedules in a rare geographically contiguous conference where all of the members share a border with another. Decades long rivalries and short travel distances for visiting fans make every game an upset opportunity for the hungry underdog. So while the early season buzz shifted weekly between Gateway, Penn-Trafford, and Hempfield, it was Franklin Regional who quietly came to work, lunchbox in hand, winning conference games and reigning at the top of the Big East when it matters most.
Packed stands on both sides and a large media presence that supported the pregame hype saw Hempfield open with a decent kickoff return to start the game. But after notching a quick first down, the Spartans offense stalled and they turned the ball over on downs to the Panthers in good field position.
The Panthers wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Quarterback Roman Sarnic got the ground game started with a pair of first down runs before handing off to senior running back Zach Bewszka for a 30-yard touchdown run. Joey Bayne added the first of his 8 successful extra point kicks to make it 7-0 at the 8:21 mark of the quarter.
The Panthers got their Sarnic to Ayden Hudock passing connection fired up on their next possession as a 41-yard strike made the score 14-0 with 3:54 on the first quarter clock.
Hempfield's continued troubles getting their offense on track led to another Franklin Regional possession and a pair of scores inside the final minute of the quarter. The versatile dual-threat Sarnic ran 16 yards before being upended and landing on his back in the end zone for the Panthers third touchdown with 51 seconds on the clock. Sarnic was the man on the scene again only 14 seconds later as he pounced on a Hempfield fumble at the Spartans 33 yard line. One play later, Sarnic found Hudock wide open in the end zone for the fourth Franklin Regional touchdown of the quarter with only 24 seconds having elapsed since their third score.
The Panthers first possession of the second quarter was highlighted by Hudock taking a pass over the middle and sprinting 43 yards before being brought down on a shoestring tackle. Sophomore running back Kyle Dupill, pressed into service when Bewszka went down with an injury in the first quarter, got the Panthers next points with his 17-yard touchdown run at 7:52 remaining in the half.
Hempfield fought back, finally getting on the scoreboard at 3:48 on the second quarter clock. Junior quarterback Keiran Lippman, pressed into starting duties following an injury to 1000-yard passer Jake Phillips against Gateway, hooked up with senior receiver Daniel Katonka from 26 yards out. Joshua Reilly added the extra point kick and the Spartans trailed 35-7.
Hempfield quickly followed up with another Lippman to Katonka touchdown strike at 1:40 left in the half, and the Spartans faithful sensed a comeback in the making at 35-14. But Hudock put that idea to bed 13 seconds later when he returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards to the house. The teams went into their respective locker rooms at halftime with Franklin Regional comfortably in front 42-14.
Sarnic put the game into mercy rule running clock status with his 15-yard touchdown run two minutes into the third quarter. The versatile Hudock added the final touchdown for the Panthers when he took a handoff from Sarnic and ran around left end to paydirt from 8 yards away. The dynamic duo of Sarnic and Hudock were responsible for 6 of the 8 Panthers scores and a fumble recovery. It is rumored that they were also seen during pregame taping teammates ankles in the training room and collecting tickets at the gate, but those reports were unconfirmed.
Hempfield's workhorse running back Gino Caesar found the end zone for the Spartans with a fourth quarter run from 5 yards out to make it 56-21, capping another 100 yards plus performance for the senior.
Franklin Regional (5-2, 4-0) travels to North Hills next Friday for a non-conference game before their regular season finale at rival Penn-Trafford on 10/28. Regardless of the outcome against PT, the Panthers are assured of handing head coach Lance Getsy his first finish as the top dog in the conference by virtue of their early season win over Gateway.
Hempfield (5-3, 1-2) needs to stop a 3-game skid that jeopardizes their playoff hopes following lopsided losses to Gateway, Seneca Valley, and Franklin Regional. They can right the ship with wins in their remaining conference games, next week against Plum and the season finale against Norwin on 10/28. Both games will be in front of the home crowd at Spartans Stadium, but as this season has proven, any matchup is a potential dogfight in the Big East Conference.
Watch this link for a full gallery of action photos available for purchase or sharing the day after the game.
Recent PostsFootball - Mt Pleasant vs Southmoreland Football - Jeannette vs Greensburg Central Catholic 2023 WCCA Cross Country Championships Football - Franklin Regional vs Norwin Football - Norwin vs Penn-Trafford Football - Franklin Regional vs Shaler Football - Ligonier Valley vs Apollo-Ridge 2023 WCCA Girls Golf Championships 2023 WCCA Boys Golf Championships Football - Greater Latrobe vs Derry Area