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Ryan Franz sets pace for Triton football team

The gritty senior running back/linebacker has led the Mustangs on a three-game winning streak and to the brink of their first division title since 2006.

Triton senior Ryan Franz is a two-year captain for the Mustangs football team.
Triton senior Ryan Franz is a two-year captain for the Mustangs football team.Read moreAkira Suwa/For the Inquirer

Ryan Franz is a running back who rarely carries the football.

"Block mostly," Franz said of his offensive role for the Triton football team.

Franz wasn't complaining. He embraces his blue-collar workload.

He blocks. He punts. He holds for extra points and field-goal attempts. He serves as the backup kicker and emergency quarterback. He leads the team in tackles as a linebacker.

Triton coach Dom Tomeo calls Franz the "voice of the team."

The senior also might be regarded as the face of the Mustangs — provided that mug shot features a black eye, cut lip and bloody nose.

Franz wouldn't complain about that, either.

"Hard-nosed football, that's what we're all about," Franz said. "Straight down the field. That's how we play."

Triton (4-2) has won three in a row, emerged as the No. 25 team in the latest Inquirer Top 25 and moved into position to play meaningful football games in late October and November, which hasn't always been the case for the Runnemede-based program.

Triton has gotten strong work from senior running back Eric Staton and senior quarterback Geff Giancaterino, among many others.

But Tomeo said the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Franz, a two-year captain, is the guy who "keeps everyone in place" and sets the pace for the team with his gritty approach to the game.

"On offense he doesn't get all the recognition because he's usually blocking," Tomeo said. "He never complains. He just wants to win. Everything he does is for the team."

Triton is gunning for its first winning season since the 2011 team went 8-3. The Mustangs haven't won a division title since the 2006 team went 9-2.

Triton is alone in first place in the West Jersey Football League National Division with a 3-0 mark and a chance to claim outright ownership of the crown with victories over Seneca and Pennsauken in the next two weeks.

There's also the chance for the Mustangs to qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2014, when the current seniors were in eighth grade.

"I feel like we've been building toward this," Franz said of the program's improvement over the previous three seasons from 1-9 to 3-7 to 4-6 in 2017.

Franz played youth football for the Gloucester Township Stallions. He said Triton players are motivated by the fact that the program has been overshadowed in the Black Horse Pike district by the success of sister-school programs such as Timber Creek, a perennial South Jersey power, and Highland, which has emerged in recent seasons as a top team as well.

"That's a big thing for us," Franz said. "We want to prove to people that we're a good football team, too, that we work hard and that we're contenders."

Franz has carried the football 11 times for 30 yards. He has reached the end zone once, on a two-point conversion in big win on Oct. 5 against then-No. 24 Cherry Hill West.

Last week in a victory over then-No. 22 Ocean City, Franz carried the football three times for 18 yards and caught two passes for 19 yards.

He mostly joined with the Mustangs' powerful offensive line to clear the way for Staton to run for 178 yards and three touchdowns.

On defense, Franz has led the way at middle linebacker. For the season, he's tops on the team with 62 tackles. He also has recovered three fumbles.

"I take pride in being able to help the team in any way I can," Franz said. "As long as we win, I don't care what I do. For my whole career, I've been that guy who will do whatever the team needs. Whatever the coaches need, I'm there."

Seneca at Triton, Friday at 7

Records: Seneca is 2-4 overall, 1-2 in the West Jersey Football League's National Division. Triton is 4-2 overall, 3-0 in the division.

Coaches: Bill Fisher is 74-97 overall, including 63-88 in his 15th season at Seneca. Dom Tomeo is 12-24 in his fourth season at Triton.

Coaching connection: Fisher coached Triton for two seasons in the early 2000s.

Seneca players to watch: Junior quarterback Malin Jasinski (88-for-151 for 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns); senior wide receiver Kaden Hastie (50 catches, 731 yards, 11 touchdowns); junior linebacker Nick Ettore (91 tackles).

Triton players to watch: Senior quarterback Geff Giancaterino (370 passing yards, five touchdowns; 313 rushing yards, four touchdowns); senior running back Eric Staton (66 carries, 466 yards, four touchdowns).

Clash of styles: Triton will look to hug the ground and control football and clock with its ground game, while Seneca will spread field and attack through the air.

Pick: Triton, 27-22.