When Franklin-Simpson and Madisonville-North Hopkins met in the second round of the Class 4A Playoffs last season, the Wildcats had a field day – knocking off the Maroons 62-6.
This season, the Wildcats look to bring their same steamroller offense back to Shadetree Stadium as they face the Maroons on Friday evening in the third round of the Class 4A Playoffs, this time with a region title at stake.
The base of Franklin’s offense throughout the 2018 season has been the ground game. The Wildcats have posted 4,312 rushing yards, comprising a big chunk of their 4,954 total yards on the season.
“We feel very confident in our running game. It is what we do best,” Franklin-Simpson head coach Doug Preston said. “We won’t change anything about how we approach the game.”
The question for the Wildcats now is how that offense will do against a Madisonville defense that has given up only 78 rushing yards per game throughout the season.
Both teams are more improved from a record standpoint as opposed to where they were entering last season’s matchup. Madisonville (10-2) was 7-4 when they came to town to face the Wildcats last season while Franklin (11-1) had an 8-3 record when they hosted the Maroons last season.
Madisonville’s two losses on the season were a season-opening loss to Owensboro, 41-13, and a narrow loss to Union County at home two weeks later, 14-13. Franklin-Simpson’s only loss was to 5A opponent South Warren, 36-14.
The bulk of the Wildcats’ rushing attack stems from senior running backs Tre Bass (1,712 rushing yards, 28 rushing touchdowns) and Carlos McKinney (1,409 rushing yards, 18 rushing touchdowns). The pair alone are averaging 260 rushing yards per game for the Wildcats.
Rounding out Franklin-Simpson’s offense is quarterback Luke Richardson, who has completed 33-of-61 passes for 635 yards and eight touchdowns to five interceptions. Jevon Covington is the leading receiver with 315 yards and three touchdown catches.
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Defensively, the Wildcats have three players over 100 tackles on the season in Michael Punzalan (116 tackles), Connor Rogers (107 tackles) and Collin Preston (105 tackles). Preston also leads the team with 27 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Covington and Leandre Stutzman each have four interceptions.
Madisonville also enters the game with an effective running scheme to power its offense.
“They are very strong and aggressive on the offensive and defensive line,” Preston said. “The difference is that they have both of their running backs healthy this year.”
Jeriah Hightower leads the Maroons with 1,707 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns on the season while Aaron Miller adds 668 rushing yards and six more scores.
Quarterback JD Gilbert has completed 53-of-87 passes for 776 yards and 10 touchdowns as opposed to just two interceptions. Miller has two touchdown catches on 331 receiving yards while Marquise Parker adds 273 yards and three touchdown catches.
The Maroons’ defense has seen over 90 tackles each from Krey Cunningham (98 tackles) and Emilio Arispe (93 tackles). Blake Moody leads the squad with 20 tackles for loss and four sacks. Nick Grant and Gunner Dameron each have four interceptions for Madisonville and have each taken one pick back for a touchdown.
The winner of Friday night’s matchup will travel to face the winner of Moore-Taylor County next Friday evening in the semifinal round of the Class 4A Playoffs.
“It would be tremendous to win the game as it will be the last game on this field for ours seniors,” Preston said. “We are excited about that possibility.”