Covering high school football in Venango County, Pa.
They made it to the NFL
College stars
Adam Lehnortt
Ben Lynch

Oil City's Adam Lehnortt and Ben Lynch starred for West Virginia in the mid-oughts.

Franklin's Lou Fogle was a standout tight end for Clemson in the 1960s before becoming an outstanding high school coach in the Carolinas.

Lou Fogle

Jack Cleaves starred for Oil City during World War I and then played for Princeton's famed Team of Destiny in 1922. That squad played the University of Chicago in the first college game broadcast coast-to-coast on radio.

Mat magicians

Josh Moore (left) and his brother Scott wrestled for Franklin in the late 1990s. Together they racked up 222 wins (Scott missed a season). But they didn't stop there, starring in college at Penn State mostly and Virginia (Scott). And they're still active as coaches -- Josh at Cleveland State and Scott at Lock Haven, bringing their programs into prominence.

You can read more about Scott here, too.

How Scott Moore uses his Penn State wrestling experience in building a program at Lock Haven

Surprise, surprise, surprise

It was 1976 -- an Olympics  year -- so all the "big names" skipped the Boston Marathon to prepare for them.

That left the field open for such unheard runners as Franklin's Jack Fultz (who sat in front of me in math class.)

Fultz took advantage and won the thing.

He did try out for the Olympics in May, but came in "20-something" in a race in which "big names" Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers were 1-2.

Fultz was in the top 10 after the 21st mile, but hit the wall and that was that.

The linked story -- written by your's truly -- appeared on Page 1 of the April 20, 1976, edition of The Derrick.

First team all-state
Jim Shaughnessy

He was a legend in Oil City in 1964 with his football (and wrestling and track), and later contributed to Arizona State's success on the gridiron. He's still the talk around town among baby boomers.

Christian Cole

...and a host of other Oilers since 1999.

Fred Blackhurst
Paul Beals
Garrett Brewster

Fred Blackhurst and Paul Beals, both played guard for two of Franklin's juggernauts, Blackhurst in the late 1960s and Beals during the early part of that decade. Garrett Brewster was left tackle on the Knights' 2003 playoff team.

Decorated high school coaches
Tiger LaVerde

The OCHS graduate, a former Franklin coach, has guided Kirtland, Ohio, to numerous state championships in the last 15-20 years.

He's picked up numerous coach of the year awards, including on the state level, for his work at Redbank Valley in Clarion County. The Franklin grad, a former OCHS assistant, guided the Bulldogs to the 1A state championship game in 2021.

Track was their game
John Kaufman and Charlie Winger

Pictured here with coach John Kaufman at Mitchell Avenue Field, Charlie Winger was a three-tine state champion.

Put her anywhere in the lineup...she was primarily a middle distance runner for Oil City and earned four state medals.

Marty Marczak

Rocky Grove boasted two state champions in 1959 -- Bob Flickner in the 100 and DeWitt Green in the pole vault.

Bob Flickner and DeWitt Green
Bet you'd never guess this and other oddities
Everything Went Swimmingly for Them
Eric Smith
Jill Wilkinson

The most successful coach in Franklin history is not Joe Stewart or Bill Hager. It is none other than Eric Smith, the coach of the swimming team, mostly in the 1990s.

Smith compiled an astounding 574 victories in 25 years at Franklin and produced star swimmers galore.

Two of them were Phil Emerson (right), who won five state championships, three in the 100 free and two in the 50 from 2012-14. He also teamed with Andy Frederick, Quinn Heffernan and Isaac Cooke to win the 200 free relay in 2013 when the Knights were runners-up in the team standings at states despite only having six swimmers.

Jill Wilkinson was a two-time state champion in the breaststroke in 1995-96. She was on the Lady Knights' state championship 200 medley relay in 1997 with Amanda Armburger, Gwynne Junkin and Katie Findlan. 

Franklin also boasted a boys state champion medley relay in 1996 with Darren Livezy, Mike Frederick, Ryan Fennick and Nate Edmundson. 

Smith produced eight undefeated seasons, 19 conference titles and 16 district crowns. He coached 46 All-Americans and 263 D-10 champs in 128 events.

Both Emerson and Wilkinson would go on to swim for Division I programs in college, Emerson at Tennessee and Wilkinson at Penn State where her career was cut short by injury.

Smith, meanwhile, has returned to Oil City, his alma mater, to coach.

Phil Emerson
Venango County
state champions




1939 -- Oil City St. Joseph

1941 -- Oil City St. Joseph


1980 -- Venango Christian (now Catholic) girls, 1A

1992 -- Cranberry girls, 2A

1993 -- Cranberry girls, 2A

1994 -- Cranberry girls, 2A

2001 -- Franklin boys, 3A

2006 -- Franklin boys, 3A


2018 -- Rocky Grove, 2A



1935 -- Barrett Melvin, Franklin

1936 -- Barrett Melvin, Franklin

Barrett Melvin


1954 -- Charlie Winger, Oil City, Class A mile

1955 -- Charlie Winger, Oil City, Class A 880

1955 -- Charlie Winger, Oil City, Class A mile

1959 -- Bob Flickner, Rocky Grove, Class B 100

1959 -- DeWitt Green, Rocky Grove, Class B pole vault

1969 -- Rick Weaver, Oil City, Class A 880

1981 -- Scott Moon, Oil City, 3A javelin

1982 -- Scott Moon, Oil City, 3A javelin

1985 -- Mike Renninger, Oil City, 3A 1600

1985 -- Ed Munoz, Oil City, 3A 800

1986 -- Chris Conway, Oil City, 3A long jump

1995 -- Liz Bodnar, Franklin, 3A high jump

1997 -- Kacey Neely, Cranberry, 2A 300 hurdles

2015 -- Abby Jones, Franklin, 3A high jump

Chris Conway
Abby Jones

Pictured are Barrett Melvin, Chris Conway (who ran a sub-10 at 100 yards), Abby Jones and Dakota Geer.


1990 -- Alison Conrad, Oil City, diving

1995 -- Jill Wilkinson, Franklin, 2A breaststroke

1996 -- Jill Wilkinson, Franklin, 2A breaststroke

1996 -- Franklin (Darren Livezy, Mike Frederick, Ryan Fennick, Nate Edmundson, 2A medley relay

1997 -- Andy Fischer, Oil City, 2A diving

1997 -- Franklin (Jill Wilkinson, Amanda Armburger, Gwynne Junkin, Katie Findlan), 2A medley relay

2012 -- Phil Emerson, Franklin, 2A 100 free

2013 -- Phil Emerson, Franklin, 2A, 50 free

2013 -- Phil Emerson, Franklin, 2A 100 free

2013 -- Franklin (Phil Emerson, Andy Frederick, Quinn Heffernan, Isaac Cooke), 2A 200 free relay

2014 -- Phil Emerson, 2A 50 free

2014 -- Phil Emerson, Franklin, 2A 100 free



1973 -- Ray Frantz, Cranberry, 98 pounds

1974 -- Ray Frantz, Cranberry, Class B 105

1994 -- Bret Ruth, Oil City, 3A 171

1998 -- Cory Ace, Franklin, 3A 135

2015 -- Dakota Geer, Franklin (Rocky Grove student), 2A 182


1940 -- Fred Young, Oil City, rope climb