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Dragons steamroll Franklin in regular season finale

FRANKLIN, Pa. – Statement made.

In a game where Franklin star quarterback Ian Haynes made a surprise return, it was the Warren rushing attack that stole the show, as three Dragons went over 100 yards en route to a 57-35 win in their regular-season finale.

“I think we came out in the first half and we played our style of football,” said Warren coach Mark Morelli. “We pretty much stuck with what we planned to do in the first half. Our kids played exceptionally well.”

James Swanson took the opening play from scrimmage 78 yards for a score, and the Dragons were off and running – literally.

While Swanson exited shortly after, a precautionary measure as he was feeling under the weather, the Dragon (6-3) offense continued to operate at high-gear.

The Dragons recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Ethan Benedict scored moments later on a 4-yard run that made it 15-0.

Franklin responded with a 14-play drive, aided by a pair of pass interference penalties, capped by a Haynes to Dalton Buckley 5-yard score, the first of four scoring plays between the two on the night.

“We had heard a rumor on the way here that he might play,” noted Morelli. “The kids were excited about. For the most part, we did a good job against them. We came up with some key stops and put some pressure on him. He used his ability to avoid pressure and make some plays.”

Ryan Arnold, who has made big plays in both the receiving and special teams departments this season, starred on the ground in this one.

On the following possession, he used his speed to race for a 56-yard score, part of a 233-yard effort on the ground for the senior.

“Coach Miller (offensive coordinator Greg Miller) was a genie with a magic lantern,” Morelli noted. “Both he and coach (Eric) Rozanski have done a good job at coming up with different plays and formations, and the kids executed.”

It was the Passmore show early in the second quarter, as he halted a Franklin drive by intercepting Haynes, then scampered 32 yards deep into Franklin territory. He called his own number once again for a 4-yard score and a 29-6 lead after Sawyer Mohney’s extra point with just over eight minutes left in the second quarter.

Haynes and Buckley connected twice in the final 4:55 of the half on scoring plays of 21 and 8 yards, but Warren’s offense needed just four plays to score two more touchdowns of its own.

First, it was Passmore scoring the second of his three touchdowns on a 57-yard scamper with 3:33 to go in the half, and Arnold exploded again from 65-yards out to make it 43-21 at the half.

If you wanted big plays, there certainly wasn’t a shortage by the explosive Dragon offense.

“It’s not the same old, same old,” noted Morelli. “We’re giving teams a lot of different looks. It’s a great feeling when you put in new plays and they work they way they’re supposed to.”

The Dragons got a stop to start the second half, and after a 19-yard run by Arnold, Passmore scored again from 4 yards out to give Warren its biggest lead of the game at 49-21.

Eli Stewart took the ensuing kickoff back 84 yards for a touchdown, a rare miscue for what has been great Warren special teams play this season.

A Haynes 38-yard strike to Buckley on fourth down got Franklin within 14 at 49-35, but Arnold capped his brilliant night with his third score of the game, a 39-yarder that, coupled with his second two-point conversion pass of the game to Alex Anderson, made it 57-35.

“We were a little sloppy in the second half,” Morelli added.

Nevertheless, it was the third-straight win to end the regular season for the Dragons, and it came against one of the best quarterbacks in western Pennsylvania.

“We didn’t get a lot of sacks, per se, but he had to move around to make plays,” Morelli said of the work his defense did against Haynes. That group was led by Jamo Douvlos, Tony Batiste, Alex Zariczny, Alex Zeigler and Passmore, among others. “He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the area and I thought we played exceptionally well against him.”

The regular season is now in the books, and the Dragons turn their attention to the postseason for the first time since 2013.

They will face Meadville next Saturday, at a site and time to be determined.

And while it was a lopsided win for the Bulldogs the last time around, the Dragons are eager to get a second crack at them.

“It’s not often you get a second opportunity against a team that beat you,” Morelli said. “We’re going to learn from our mistakes and get prepared. Meadville is a good, solid team and we’ll be ready to go to work on Monday.”

NOTE: The 57 points for the Dragons were a season-high.

– – –

By Quarters

Warren 22 21 6 8 – 57

Franklin 7 14 7 7 – 35

First Quarter

W – James Swanson 78 run (Sawyer Mohney PAT) 11:40

W – Ethan Benedict 4 run (Ryan Arnold to Alex Anderson 2-point conversion) 9:45

F – Dalton Buckley 5 pass from Ian Haynes (George Coon PAT) 2:02

W – Ryan Arnold 56 run (Mohney PAT) :32

Second Quarter

W – Micah Passmore 4 run (Mohney PAT) 8:06

F – Buckley 21 pass from Haynes (Coon PAT) 4:55

W – Passmore 57 run (Mohney PAT) 3:33

F – Buckey 8 pass from Haynes (Coon PAT) 1:14

W – Arnold 65 run (Mohney PAT) 1:02

Third Quarter

W – Passmore 4 run (PAT missed) 5:08

F – Eli Stewart 84 kickoff return (Coon PAT) 4:52

Fourth Quarter

F – Buckley 38 pass from Haynes (Coon PAT) 6:114

W – Arnold 39 run (Arnold to Anderson 2-point conversion) 2:19

– – –

Rushing: Warren – Arnold 10-233, Passmore 11-139, Swanson 4-104, Benedict 8-32 (Note: Stats are unofficial)

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