Franklin Regional avenges loss with rout of rival Plum
The Franklin Regional offense got it started less than two minutes into Friday’s Big East Conference and season opener against rival Plum.
Then the defense joined in on the fun.
It was the start of a first-half points outburst for the home team in its 2018 debut.
The Panthers scored six touchdowns before halftime to put the mercy rule into effect as they rolled to a 45-7 victory.
“We didn’t know what kind of team we had because we hadn’t played a game yet,” FR coach Greg Botta said. “But I was pleased with their energy and their physicality.”
Franklin Regional gained a measure of revenge for last year’s 33-7 loss at Plum.
Plum came in with momentum after a 32-14 victory over Highlands in Week Zero, but the Mustangs were taken out of their rhythm quickly.
“Last year, Plum took it to us physically and on the scoreboard, but our kids responded tonight,” Botta said.
After forcing a punt on Plum’s opening drive, FR scored on its second play from scrimmage. Quarterback Adam Rudzinski found Michael Evans over the middle for 14 yards to cap the quick drive, and the Panthers led 7-0 just 1 minute, 40 seconds into the game.
“Tonight was a big game for us,” Evans said. “Last year’s loss was humiliating. Out coaches prepared us for months for this game. To come out and establish ourselves the way we did was a huge deal.”
Panthers linebacker Justin Johns then picked off a tipped pass from Plum quarterback Hunter Linhart and took it 40 yards for a score.
Rudzinski and Nick Leopold connected on a 7-yard touchdown four seconds into the second quarter to put FR ahead 21-0.
Plum’s offense then came to life midway through the second quarter after being stymied for the better part of the first 17 minutes.
The Mustangs drove from their own 20 into FR territory and had a first down at the Panthers 27. Linhart completed four consecutive passes for 48 yards on the drive.
After a 3-yard gain by James Schropp, the FR defense stiffened and forced three consecutive Linhart incompletions to turn the ball over on downs.
On the first play of the ensuing Panthers drive, Zac Gordon ran for 21 yards, and then Rudzinski rambled 70 yards down the home sideline for a touchdown. The PAT extended the lead to 28-0.
Rudzinski and Evans hooked up for a second TD, this time for 32 yards, and after recovering a Plum fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Rudzinski capped a short drive with a 4-yard run to make it 42-0 with seven seconds to go until the break.
FR had 264 total yards at halftime.
“There were a lot of lessons learned in that game,” Plum coach Matt Morgan said. “We can’t walk out here and think we’re going to beat everybody like we beat Highlands. We have a young team, and we need to grow up, learn from this and move on.”
The only scoring in the third quarter came off the foot of Anthony DiFalco, who kicked a 20-yard field goal.
Plum broke through late in the fourth quarter as Linhart, who finished with 122 yards passing, connected with Logan Brooks for a 20-yard score.
Rudzinski, who accounted for five of the six FR touchdowns, threw for 136 yards and rushed for 68. Evans ended the game with three catches for 57 yards, and Gordon added 13 carries for 43 yards for the Panthers, who travel to Latrobe next Friday.
Schropp and William Guzzi rushed for 51 and 46 yards, respectively, for Plum.
“I know we made a ton of mistakes, and I think if we play Plum again, it’s a different football game,” Botta said. “But this was a nice win. We’ll take a look at everything and be ready to play Latrobe. I know Matt will have his kids ready, too.”