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October 10, 2013

H.S. FOOTBALL: ’Dogs focused on getting back in win column

MEADVILLE — The Meadville football team has been pretty dominant over Franklin the last few years. In fact, Meadville has won the last six meetings with Franklin, and over the last four the Bulldogs have outscored the Knights  by a total of 243-29.

However, tonight at 7 at Franklin High School Stadium, when the two teams meet for the 101st time in their shared histories (MASH leads the series 55-43-2), it will be Franklin coming into the game with a better record.

The Knights are 2-4 on the season and 1-1 in Region 5. Meadville comes in at 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the region.

So tonight, the Bulldogs will be trying to reverse one trend while maintaining another.

“I think we have had a good week of practice, and the guys are about as positive as you can be right now,” Meadville head coach Mike Feleppa said. “The kids have come in here everyday and have worked hard. We are focused on Franklin and ready to get a win.”

After defeating Titusville 18-14 in Week 1, Franklin lost four straight before picking up its second win of the year last week during a 44-0 romp over Bradford.

The Knights rushed for 179 yards and five touchdowns and passes for another 238 yards in the victory, led by Kyle Ritchey’s 10-for-21, 193-yard passing performance.

And kicked Tyler Mooney booted three field goals in the game, including a 28-yarder, a 38-yarder and a 40-yarder.

“Yeah, it was kind of nice to put some things together,” said Franklin head coach Tom Haynes, who had previously led the football team at Cochranton High School for 16 seasons before leaving the position two years ago. “It was nice to get some positive momentum for a change. They played hard. They’ve been playing hard all year. But they’re also learning some new sthings, putting the pieces together.”

Franklin comes in playing a shotgun/triple-option offense. According to Haynes, the team tries to maintain a 50/50 split in running and passing. Yet, while senior fullback Kyle Uber had a decent game last week with 66 yards and three touchdown runs, he’s only averaging around 42 yards running per game.

The real strength of the Knights offense is in the passing game, where Ritchey, a senior, has completed 38 of 115 attempts for 688 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also been picked off five times.

“Kyle is more of a thrower than a triple-option kind of guy,” said Haynes. “So we’ve tweaked and tuned things to his athletic skill set.”

Rtchey’s top target this season has been sophomore split end Kahlil West, who has 25 catches for 486 yards and three touchdowns for the year.

“I think we’ve seen just about every route that can be thrown at us. At this point in the season, I think we’ve seen every formation,” Feleppa said.

So, while Meadville’s defense has to focus on stopping the pass, Franklin’s defense has to worry about Meadville’s rushing attack.

“They move the ball very well,” said Haynes. “(Ryan) Harkness runs the ball well. They’ve got (Nathan) Martin. It’s a three-headed attack. We’re going to have to be ready for it, that’s for sure.”

Harkness, the Bulldogs’ senior fullback, is among the top 10 running backs in the district with 149 carries for 792 yards and six touchdowns. Martin, a junior wing-back, follows with 69 carries for 376 yards and three touchdowns.

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