After losing two straight games by one point each, the Franklin Rebels made a statement against the Centennial Cougars Friday night in a District 11-AAA battle.e
Photos by JENNIFER ROBERTS for FHP
After losing two straight games by one point each, the Franklin Rebels made a statement against the Centennial Cougars Friday night. Led by quarterback Joe Critchlow’s 218 passing yards and three touchdowns, the Rebels stampeded over the Cougars 34-3.
“Centennial is a huge rival for us,” said Critchlow. “It was really fun to come out here and play like we felt we should,” said Critchlow. “There are always things we can work on, but our whole team played great. I’m just really glad we got this win.”
The victory gives the Rebels an 8-2 record and sets them at third place in the District 11-AAA standings.
|Parker Pinnell hauls in a catch for playoff-bound Franklin.|
“We came out tonight and played a full game,” said FHS head coach Donnie Webb. “I’m proud of these kids. Tonight was a team victory and the helmet is back where it belongs.”
For the Cougars, Friday night’s loss puts them at 5-5 overall, with the odds of earning a playoff berth not in their favor.
“This hurts,” said Centennial running back Deon Sanders, who had 17 carries for 50 yards. “I’m just at a loss for words right now. I’m just proud of the way my team fought. I’m proud of our coaching staff. I’m just really proud to be a Cougar. Congrats to Franklin on winning this game.”
In the game’s opening drive, FHS moved it down the field with ease. After big gains from running back Nic Hardemon, and a 15-yard grab by D.J. Burns, the Rebels found themselves in the red zone. However, the Cougars made a stand, stopping Franklin on the next three downs to force a Joe Defatta 27-yard field goal to give FHS a 3-0 lead.e
Hardemon finished the game with 124 rushing yards, 13 receiving yards and one touchdown, while Burns had two receptions for 38 yards.e
After the efficient drive, neither team was able to find a spark for the rest of the first quarter. However, once the game entered the second quarter, it didn’t take long for Franklin to catch fire.
Following a 30-yard punt from Centennial, the Rebels had the ball at the Cougars’ 37. Then, in the first offensive play of the second quarter, lightening struck, as Critchlow hit a wide-open Parker Pinnell down the seam to give their team a 10-0 lead.
After giving up the touchdown pass, things went from bad to worse for Centennial. During a 17-yard jet-sweep run by Bailey Wisniowski, CHS receiver Emmanuel Hall went down, grabbing his ankle in the process. The injury left the Cougars without their top pass catcher for the rest of the evening.
Centennial went on to finish the drive with a 20-yard field goal from Nick Madonia to close the FHS lead down to seven.
With three minutes to go in the half, the Rebels had the ball at their own 34. Two minutes later, they were in Centennial territory once again. Facing third-and-9 at the opposing 44, Critchlow dropped back and scanned the defense. Along the right sideline, receiver Tony Flemister was on a go route against man coverage. Seeing the mismatch, Critchlow lofted it downfield towards his receiver’s outside shoulder. As the ball dropped, the CHS corner had no chance as Flemister caught it in stride and took it to the house.
|Franklin running back Nic Hardemon runs for a 2-yard touchdown.|
The 44-yard touchdown pass gave Franklin a 17-3 edge heading into halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, Defatta hit a 24-yard field goal to put the Rebels up 20-3. In the ensuing drive, Franklin’s Austin Winstead recovered a fumble to give his offense first-and-10 at the Centennial 32.
Just as it looked it like the Rebels were about to conquer, the Cougars bit back, forcing FHS into a 3rd-and-long situation. Backed into a corner, the Rebels found a way out. Sneaking out of the backfield on a designed slip-screen, Hardemon caught Critchlow’s dump off pass and took it 13 yards to give his team fourth-and-1 at the 23.
With a chance to bury the Cougars, FHS opted to go for it. That decision changed the landscape of the entire game.
After the ball was hiked, Critchlow immediately fumbled. With the pressure of defensive linemen approaching him, he picked up the ball and dashed to the right sideline. All hope looked to be lost as the Cougars spread out and had Critchlow within a paws reach.eAs the tunnel vision began to set in, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a drag route from the left side going right. It was none other than tight end Ben Hagaman. Seeing his favorite target raising his hand to demand the ball, Critchlow gained his composure and brought the ball up from his side and into a throwing position. Within a split second, he fired it towards the wide-open Hagaman, who hauled it in and took it to the house.
The score gave the Rebels a convincing 27-3 lead with 3:51 left in the third quarter.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Hardemon in the fourth quarter sealed the 34-3 victory for the Franklin Rebels.
With the regular season out of the way, the Rebels now turn their focus towards the posteason.
“We’re anxious and we’re hungry,” stated Critchlow. “We’re ready to get into the playoffs, get some wins and go a long way.”
The Rebels will travel to take on the Station Camp Bison (8-2) in the first round of the 6A playoffs Friday. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m.