Panthers Score Big in Win Over Huskies

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by LA1 News

When it comes to Franklin High School it gets clear by one's midlife that while some things may change, other things seem destined to stay the same. Panther football showed Thursday night during the school's traditional pre-Labor Day Weekend opener that the Highland Park community can once again take hope in a winning football program, just like in the old days. While the historic all-star quarterback leaders like Filly Martinez (1985), the Lopez brothers (1986-88), and Santiago Alvarez (1990) are now the stuff of lore, current Panther quarterback #11 Robert Maldonado proved in front of his home crowd that Franklin is the Northeast force to contend with this season. Panther head coach and Franklin alumnus Narciso Diaz, just 28 years old, also proved to the entire community that he has what it takes to secure victory. The Panthers looked strong by taking the early lead and never looking back, finally beating the North Hollywood High School Huskies 35-6. 

The first half was all Franklin. The Panthers emerged from the team's training room after halftime with a comfortable 26-0 lead. The Huskies emerged desperate to score and at least avoid a shutout. Franklin continued to dominate throughout the third quarter. With about 12 minutes left in the fourth, the Huskies finally came to within 10 yards of the Panther end zone. Huskies quarterback #13 Jesus Castaneda went back for a pass and scrambled, finally being tackled at the line of scrimmage. However, the tackle was called as a roughing the passer penalty, and the ball was placed half the distance to the goal line. From about the five yard line, Huskies running back #58 scored in a handoff with 10:19 left, taking the team out from scrorelessness. The Huskies tried a two-point conversion, which failed. The Huskies then tried for the onside kick, which also failed, and the Panthers had the ball in Huskies territory, with the score still 26-6.

With 8:18 left in the game, a Panther handoff failed, which resulted in a turnover. It looked like the Huskies were poised to score again. The Huskies running back bobbed and weaved his way in and around defenders for a hard-fought first down deep in Panther territory. However, on the next play the Huskies fumbled the ball at the Panther two-yard line, and Franklin recovered with 4:30 left on the clock. Franklin responded with Maldonado throwing an outlet pass which produced 20 yards. Then, in a move which brought back memories of the days of glory at Franklin, Maldonado solidified Franklin's domination of the game by throwing a 75-yard touchdown pass to receiver Cesar Jimenez #80 in a beautifully executed play. The extra point was good and time ran out with a final score of 35-6 on the board. 

After the game, quaterback Maldonado came up with a simple reason for his successful season debut. "I just needed to execute like I have been taught by Coach Diaz and all the coaches on staff," he said, "and I think we did that tonight." Coach Diaz had high praise for his Panther players and coaches. "We basically did our recruiting just like in the old days. We just visited the middle schools and the recreation centers, saw a kid we thought was talented, and told them they needed to come and play football for us," he says. 

Whatever recipe Coach Diaz and his staff made up for this season it seems clear that the team is going to be the formidable one to beat in the Northeast, even the City perhaps. The home game Thursday night brought back memories of the old days. Much has changed at Franklin since the mid to late 1980s. The football helmets are no longer blue with the cherished yellow "F" on the side. They have been replaced by newer all-gold helmets. Even the FHS Band uniforms are updated. The stodgy all-blue uniforms of yesteryear are gone, in favor of an all-white band uniform with blue piping. However, some things still stay the same. The band still keeps the crowd pumped with motivating music each time the Panthers reach their side of the field. The great kids of JROTC still assist people with getting to their seats. And, if one looked hard enough, he or she could almost see Panther football great "Monster" on field as part of the coaching staff, yelling into the ears of various players.

While continuing the legacy of legendary FHS Football Coach Armando Gonzalez is a huge task for any coach, Diaz looks up to it. The glory days are back at Franklin Football.


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