FRANKLIN – One season after Franklin-Simpson dominated Madisonville-North Hopkins on their home field in the Class 4A Playoffs, the Maroons were bent on getting revenge.
Following last year’s 62-6 loss to the Wildcats in the second round, Madisonville took a 10-0 lead into halftime of Friday night’s contest. However, Franklin would lock down the Maroons’ run game in the second half and use an offensive boost to earn a 12-10 nail-biter win at Shadetree Stadium for their third-straight region title.
“This one felt so special, especially being able to come back and win after being down 10 points at halftime,” Franklin-Simpson head coach Doug Preston said. “The kids fought for each other. There were a lot of tough moments in that game that required the kids to fight.”
The Wildcats, who averaged 359.3 rushing yards per game coming into Friday’s contest, saw their run game stifled in the first half, taking away the heart and soul of their offense and allowing the Maroons (10-3) – who have given up just 78 rushing yards per game this season – to hold the momentum for most of the half.
It was definitely not a position that the Wildcats were used to being in.
“We pride ourselves on being tough physically and mentally and we talked about that [at halftime],” Preston said. “We made a couple of adjustments offensively and one defensively. We basically said ‘we’re going to do what we do and go play as hard as we can for the next 24 minutes and see what happens.'”
After a scoreless first quarter between the teams, Madisonville got on the board first with a two-yard touchdown run by Jeriah Hightower to give the Maroons a 7-0 lead at the 9:43 mark of the second quarter.
The Maroons took a 10-0 lead at the halftime break on Noah O’Dell’s 27-yard field goal on an untimed down.
Franklin-Simpson finally got on the board in the third quarter when a big pass from Luke Richardson to Leandre Stutzman set up a one-yard touchdown run for Carlos McKinney, pulling the Wildcats within 10-6 at the 2:48 mark of the third quarter on a missed extra point kick.
Madisonville drove all the way to the Wildcats’ 26-yard line on their opening drive of the fourth quarter before turning the ball over on downs with 6:26 remaining.
Franklin-Simpson answered the bell just under two minutes later as McKinney broke off a 36-yard touchdown run to give the Wildcats their first lead of the evening, 12-10, at the 5:08 mark of the fourth quarter. The extra point snap was botched, giving the Maroons a chance to win with a field goal.
Madisonville drove deep into Franklin territory but turned it over on downs with 31 seconds remaining, sealing the win for the Wildcats.
“Our secondary made plays tonight that have really haunted us all season when people threw over us and completed the big passes,” Preston said. “All of the things that came together tonight when we needed good defense was just a culmination of hard work over time.”
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With the win, the Wildcats advance to face 12-1 Taylor County in Campbellsville next Friday night in the Class 4A Playoff semifinals.
McKinney admitted that – aside from the excitement of continuing to play for a state championship – there is one thing that he may have to sacrifice.