Hollidaysburg Area High School football coach Homer DeLattre has said in recent weeks that he'd like to see his team become more of a force with its running game.
"The biggest thing we've talked about it finishing. When you have the lead or are close to having the lead, being able to run the football," DeLattre said. "We want to impose our will on our opponents and finish. Finishing is something great teams do."
DeLattre could just as easily been talking about the Golden Tigers' 2013 season as a whole.
Hollidaysburg evened its record last week with a big comeback road win against Hampton. Now the Golden Tigers find themselves with back-to-back contests against probably the two top programs in the Greater Allegheny Conference starting with a home game against perennial WPIAL power Franklin Regional, which brings a 5-1 record to Blair County on Friday night.
Kickoff at Tiger Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Hollidaysburg has played the Panthers the last three years and still is looking for its first win in the series.
Game: Franklin Regional Panthers (5-1) vs. Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers (3-3)
Where: Tiger Stadium, Hollidaysburg
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
The coaches: Franklin Regional - Greg Botta (128-83, 20th year); Hollidaysburg - Homer DeLattre (55-67, 12th year)
Series record: Franklin Regional, 3-0 (first met in 2010)
Last meeting: Franklin Regional, 35-0 (Oct. 12, 2012)
"I would say we're going to earn some respect in the conference," DeLattre said when asked what it would mean to beat Franklin Regional this week or emerge victorious at Mars on Oct. 18. "I don't think most people think we're going to be in the game against these teams. We just want to do the best we can, prepare ourselves for that. If we're going to win the game, it will be because of that."
Give DeLattre credit. He's not approaching this like the people who don't believe the Tigers have a chance. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"We want to put our team in a position to compete against any team on our schedule," DeLattre said. "Looking at some of their opponents and some of their scores throughout the league, we think we can compete."
In fact, both teams lost to Highlands, Hollidaysburg by 19 points and Franklin Regional by 17. Hollidaysburg beat Greensburg Salem by 30, while the Panthers won that matchup by 22. The only real aberration is that Franklin Regional handled Knoch by four touchdowns, while Hollidaysburg lost to the Knights at home in a heartbreaker.
The Tigers should be feeling better about themselves after the win last week at Hampton. The Talbots, who knocked off Franklin Regional in a key game last season, had been on a three-game winning streak but were held to 65 yards on the ground by the Hollidaysburg defense while Tiger quarterback Josh Bickley returned to the field after a two-game hiatus and rolled up 317 yards of total offense himself.
"It just shows we're getting better," DeLattre said. "That's what we talk about all the time. Get better and things will take care of themselves."
Franklin Regional brings in a team that averages about 250 yards per game. Three Panther backs have more than 200 yards on the ground, led by quarterback Charan Singh, who has run for 315 yards. Singh also is completing slightly more than half his passes for 365 yards.
But what the Panthers have done exceptionally well is defend. In fact, they haven't allowed a point in nine quarters.
What makes that more impressive is that Franklin Regional only had three starters back on either side of the ball at the same position they played in 2012.
"We've established a program that's expected to do well. We insist that they do well," said Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta. "We lost a couple of key people early in the year. We start three sophomores, really four at times. I really thought we'd be 5-5 this year. The next two games are going to be very difficult. I'm thrilled with how we're playing right now."
Botta said he has a lot of respect for Hollidaysburg.
"They run their spread offense very well. I like what Homer's done," Botta said. "We've got to be very disciplined. On defense, their front four use their hands very well. It's going to be very difficult to run on them."
It's another measuring-stick game for the Tigers, and DeLattre needs his offense to produce yards and points.
"We have to mix the run and the pass. We have to keep them off balance, because they do have a great front seven," DeLattre said. "Franklin Regional was 21-20 with Greensburg going into the fourth quarter. They were 14-0 with Knoch going into the fourth quarter. They end up winning by two scores or four scores, and, most of the time, they ended up running the football. That's the mark of a great team. That's where we want to be."