By Maurice Patton
Shaking off an early special teams breakdown, Franklin rallied with a couple of fourth-quarter scores to pick up a 21-13 win Fridayat Ravenwood.
The victory was the first in the series for the Rebels since 2011, as they improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Region 3-6A. “In joking fashion, one of my assistants grabbed my back (after the game) and said ‘the monkey’s gone’,” Franklin coach Donnie Webb said. “I’m sure it’s the same feeling for the kids. We always felt we were as good as them.”
The defending state titlists posted the game’s first points, recovering a blocked punt for a touchdown with 3:18 remaining in the opening period for a 6-0 cushion. The lead was shortlived, though, as senior Mitch Rossi scored from four yards out to cap the ensuing Franklin drive and Christopher Miller-Hill added the extra point for a 7-6 advantage.
Carter Nelson’s 1-yard plunge put the Raptors (2-3, 1-1) back in front 13-7, four minutes into the second quarter, and the margin held up as the game reached intermission and through the third quarter – concerning Webb. “At the end of the third quarter, they had 60-something yards and we had 200-something, and they were winning the game,” he said. “We had too many turnovers, too many penalties and special teams (busts).
“The game had a weird feel to it. I never felt threatened that they could drive the ball on us, if we could just keep it and hang on to it and make some plays. I knew we were the better football team, but we were putting ourselves in a spot where we were about to run out of time if we didn’t make some plays.”
That sense of urgency finally took hold for the Rebels, as they converted a Ravenwood turnover near midfield into points when Rossi’s 8-yard run made it a 14-13 game with 10 minutes remaining. Wes Patterson added an insurance touchdown with his 4-yard run at the three-minute mark, and a Zach Polisky pick-6 was negated by an illegal block on the return but ended the hosts’ hopes of a comeback.
“I guess that’s how it’s going to be for us. It’s getting kind of old,” Webb said of his team’s third game decided by one possession. Offensively, Franklin wasn’t quite as productive as in previous weeks – finishing with 266 yards as Rossi (100 rushing yards) and Patterson (90 rushing yards) led the way. “Wes kept us going,” Webb said, as the Rebels did dominate time of possession once again, holding the ball for 34-plus minutes.
Defensively, ends Barrett Brown and Conner Palk teamed for 10 tackles – five for loss – as that unit held Ravenwood to 119 yards. “We played ‘nickel’ the whole night and we needed to stop the run, and it was going to take those guys to do it,” Webb said of the pair.
With an open date looming, Webb said it couldn’t have come at a better time on the schedule as his team can get set for the second half of the regular season and solidify its Class 6A postseason prospects. “Having just played Brentwood and Ravenwood back to back – for our kids, two rivals like that, this is a really good spot for an open week,” he said. “We can work on this stuff. We’ve got a chance to be a team on our side (of the bracket) to be reckoned with. I don’t think we’re great defensively, but I think our kids play hard. Offensively, we’ve been stopping ourselves.”
When the Rebels do return to play, they’ll do so with three of their final five games at home, including a Thursday matchup with Wilson Central in Week 8. “It’s all region games from here,” Webb said. “I know we all make the playoffs, but it still matters to have those playoff games at home. In the first two rounds, the home team wins a high percentage of those. So that’s our goal.”
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