By MADISON BROWDER | Photos by STEVE WHEELER
For the second year in a row, the rivalry matchup between the Franklin Rebels and Centennial Cougars came down to the final seconds.
After a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Carter Hendry put the Rebels up 21-17 with 49 seconds left, the Cougars drove 75 yards and capitalized with a 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tre Stewart to Ryan Newby with four seconds left to take the Battle of Franklin with a 24-21 victory at home.
“We know what it means to be down,” Stewart said. “And we came out and we were like let’s do this. And you know it’s a rivalry, the energy is there, and we made it happen.”
Stewart and receiver Tavion Fleming were responsible for most of the final drive.
“We hadn’t been able to get things going offensively all night, so we were just trying to hit Tavion quick and hopefully he would make some people miss,” Centennial head coach Matt Kriesky said.
In Week 1 last year, Stewart tossed two touchdowns in the final 73 seconds to defeat Franklin 28-24.
The victory clinches a Class 6A playoff spot for the Cougars (3-4, 3-1).
“It means a whole lot for our season,” Kriesky said about the win. “This, hopefully, will turn our season around and get us going on the right foot.”
Franklin (1-6, 0-4) was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.
The Cougars were on the board first after a fake punt led to a field goal from Johnny Crouch six minutes into the first quarter.
Franklin and Centennial traded interceptions late in the first. Stewart’s pass being picked off by Franklin’s Matt Gaca.
Early into the second quarter, Gaca muscled his way into the end zone with a handful of Centennial defenders in tow.
Newby’s pick-six put Centennial up 10-7 with just over seven minutes to play in the first half.
Centennial later blocked a punt deep in Rebel territory. Running back Jariel Wilson capitalized with a touchdown run with less than a minute to go in the half.
The Cougars entered the fourth quarter with a 17-7 lead.
Gaca pulled the Rebels within three with a 1-yard touchdown run three minutes into the final frame.
Centennial hosts Hillsboro next week, while Franklin battles top-ranked Oakland at home.