Coach (season, record): Dave Smith (9th season, 30-50)
2011 overall record: 0-10
2011 region record (place): 0-6 (seventh)
2011 playoff results: Did not qualify for the District 10 Class AAA playoffs.
Top players lost: Colin Bittner, Nolan Hall, Nick Billingsley
Top returning players: Chris Matthews, Kyle Ritchey, A.J. Cooley, Chris Kahle, Scott Murray, Nate Cardy, Brandon Johnson, Logan Mooney
Assistant coaches: Matt Siembida, Bill Schwabenbauer, Bay Lawrence, Zac O’Brien, Robert Tantlinger, Nick Wested, Jim Foster
Outlook: 2011 was a forgettable year for Franklin. The Knights didn’t win a game and players were not responding to the system. Coach Dave Smith made some changes in the offseason, including new offensive and defensive coordinators. Franklin’s biggest issue this summer will be replacing several all-region linemen. Colin Bittner was voted to the second team as a defensive lineman and Nolan Hall, an offensive lineman. Bittner also caught 19 passes for 228 yards and one touchdown. Nick Billingsley threw for 979 yards and eights touchdowns for Franklin last fall but he has graduated.
Franklin is essentially starting over this year. The Knights have some new coaches on the staff and have simplified the offense and defense. The Knights have several talented players back, including second-team linebacker Chris Matthews. Matthews ran for 218 yards on 69 carries and led the Knights with 68 tackles. Kyle Ritchey is back at quarterback but could have some serious competition with the return of Forrest Wested. Wested, a second-team quarterback for Farrell last year, transferred back to Franklin after two years with the Steelers. A.J. Cooley was one of the Knights’ top offensive weapons last year and is back at wideout. Cooley caught 20 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns and pulled down three interceptions on defense. Chris Kahle, Scott Murray, Nate Cardy, Brandon Johnson and Logan Mooney are also back for the Knights. Johnson was one of Franklin’s top defensive players last year, while Mooney saw time at kicker.
Franklin went through a rough fall in 2011 but the Knights have almost every player back. The Knights can quietly become a contender if they can build chemistry and develop as a team. It won’t be easy right away for Franklin. The Knights head to Titusville and DuBois right away before their home opener Sept. 14 against Lakeview. The good news is Franklin will only play one region game in the first half of the season and will have plenty of time to come together as a team. The second half of the season could be interesting for the Knights.
31 at Titusville 7
7 at DuBois* 7
14 Lakeview 7
21 General McLane 7
28 at Karns City 7
5 Bradford* 7
12 at Meadville* 7
19 at Slippery Rock* 7
26 Warren* 7
2 Oil City* 7
*Region 5 games
Monday: General McLane
– Tom Reisenweber