Franklin Area youth football squad captures championship |
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Franklin Area youth football squad captures championship

Michael Love
Members of the Franklin Area Panthers (ages 11 and 12) youth football team, along with the coaches and the cheerleaders, are all smiles following a 21-14 Big East Youth Football League championship-game victory at Penn-Trafford High School on Nov. 2, 2014. The Panthers finished the season 10-0.

The Franklin Area Panthers (ages 11 and 12) youth football team capped the first year of the Big East Youth Football League with a 21-14 championship-game victory over Penn-Trafford on Sunday at Penn-Trafford High School.

The Panthers went 8-0 in the regular season and earned the No. 1 seed for the four-team playoffs.

Penn-Trafford, the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, lost only once in the regular season, and that was to Franklin, 32-6, in the season opener on Aug. 24.

The Panthers are a combined 19-1 the past two seasons.

“This is a very close-knit group of kids,” head coach Ray Bonacci said.

“Our motto all year has been, ‘We’re not close because we’re good. We’re good because we’re close.’ They are close on and off the field. They are also honor roll students. They practiced four times a week for three hours a night, and they still maintained their high level of academics.

“We have 20 members on this team, and we had a couple of injuries (Sunday), but the backups came in and did a great job. Everyone is expected to be ready at any time, and everyone contributed.”

Penn-Trafford led 7-0 in the first quarter and 14-7 at halftime. It was the first time the Panthers had trailed all year.

P-T ran the opening kickoff back to the Panthers’ 15 and punched it in from there. The second Warriors score came late in the second quarter after recovering a Panthers fumble at the 5.

“They didn’t have far to go for their touchdowns,” defensive coordinator Jim Ciecierski said. “They only had a couple of first downs overall. It was a great defensive effort.”

Zac Gordon scored three rushing touchdowns and added all three conversion points.

The Panthers had the ball the entire third quarter, and they scored to tie the game with 50 seconds left in the quarter.

They then scored the game-winning touchdown with five minutes left in the fourth.

The Warriors got the ball back one more time late in the fourth, but the Panthers stopped them on downs with 1:34 to play and ran out the rest of the time.

“At halftime, we talked about what a championship team is made of,” Bonacci said. “It’s made up of a group of athletes who don’t quit and remain focused. That’s what these kids did today. I’m proud of them.”

Bonacci said he is thankful to the families of all the players who helped make the season a success, from the practices to the games.

In addition to Gordon, the other Panthers’ team members are Christo Marion, Shane Mendlowitz, Anthony Bonacci, Boston Waryas, Josh Pushnik, Shawn Eddy, Tyler Waryas, Brock O’Block, C.J. Ciecierski, Zach Seaman, Josh Gabster, Patrick McMillen, Brandon Gaur, Nick Kravits, Austin Gillespie, Luke Reppermund, Jeffrey Downs, Foster Wetmore and Dylan Llewellyn.�

Michael Love is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5825 or at [email protected].

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