By Maurice Patton
As a longtime Chicago Cubs fan, Donnie Webb can afford to look at things a bit more from a ‘glass-half-full’ perspective these days…So the veteran Franklin coach was disappointed, but not despondent, over his team’s 42-35 overtime loss Friday at Mt. Juliet in the de facto Region 3-6A championship game.
Barring a Golden Bear loss in their regular-season finale Thursday at McGavock, Mt. Juliet (7-2, 5-1) will be the No. 1 seed heading into the Class 6A playoffs. Franklin (7-2, 5-1) will wrap up the No. 2 seed with a victory Friday over visiting Lebanon. “Trying to look at it in a positive way … we lost a ballgame and then ran off seven straight,” Webb said, referring to the season-opening 28-24 loss to Centennial. “If we can learn from this one and stay the course and get tougher from it, (six) more straight would have us in Cookeville.
“I still think we are what we are, we’re still a good football team. Our goal is to finish up the season on a positive note. We’re still going to make the playoffs, still going to have a good seed. We want to make the best of it and see what we can do.” That said, the Rebels may have let one get away Friday after rallying from an early 10-7 deficit. Franklin put together a productive offensive performance despite getting just 88 rushing yards from Mitch Rossi, as quarterback Carter Hendry ran and threw for a combined 265 yards with four touchdowns, and Wes Patterson connected with J.P. Batarseh for a 28-yard fourth-quarter TD that put the visitors up 35-27 with 2:47 remaining in regulation.
From there, Mt. Juliet was able to score on a 14-yard run by quarterback Mason Earls – his second TD of the night – add the tying two-point conversion, then get another Earls TD from seven yards out for the gamewinner. The loss came in spite of Franklin outgaining the Golden Bears by 159 offensive yards.
“The biggest difference in the game was field position, and their kicking game was the difference in making that field position possible,” Webb said. “We started every kickoff on the 20-yard line, they were averaging close to the 30. We shanked a punt, and we had a turnover, so they started on the 30 once and on the 15 once. Field position and kicking game.” Kicker of the year candidate Jacob Bailey connected on a pair of field goals for Mt. Juliet, from 21 and 49 yards, to salvage a couple of possessions for the hosts.
Despite the loss, Webb was pleased with the play of linebacker Conner Palk and defensive tackle Adam Sirface, while receiver Alex Gaca finished with five catches for 114 yards and a score. “They willed one more play than us down at the end,” Webb said.
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