High School Football: Franklin edges Butler in playoff opener

FRANKLIN – During a six-game regular season in which it yielded just 58 points, including 24 in five contests, Franklin’s defense rallied around one unifying motto.

“We have a saying and it’s ‘Get to the ball,’” senior defensive end Izac Proctor said. “No matter where we’re at on the field, when someone makes a play we all get there too. We live by that for sure.”

The Wildcats lived to play another day Friday with a 14-6 win over visiting Butler in a Division III, Region 12 first round playoff game at Atrium Stadium. Franklin scored on its first and last offensive possessions, and in between the defense pitched a shutout, as the Wildcats (4-3) won the sixth playoff game in history and third since 1993. Franklin has been in the postseason 13 times.

Butler, which scored on a 55-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Mitchell Thomas, was making its fourth trip to the playoffs in eight years and ninth overall.

Franklin advances to play at St. Marys Memorial next Friday in the second round. The Roughriders beat Greenville 56-21 in their first round match-up.

This will be the third time in five years Frankin and St. Marys have met in the postseason. The Roughriders won 14-10 in last year’s regional quarterfinal and 55-31 in the 2016 regional semifinals.

Butler (1-6) will play West Carrollton next week in a regular season game. The OHSAA is allowing teams to schedule 10 games, which can be contested through Nov. 14. West Carrollton dropped its D-II, Region 8 opener to Sidney 31-12 Friday.

Senior running back Cyre Williams scored on a 25-yard run to cap Franklin’s opening possession and sophomore quarterback Tressel Gibson scored on a 5-yard run with 45 seconds left in the game.

It was a welcomed output for on offense that had generated just nine points in the previous 12 quarters.

Franklin churned out a season-high 261 yards, while Butler managed 95.

“Two big drives,” Franklin head coach Brad Childers said. “We’ve got a sophomore quarterback who is doing a great job. We’ve been trying to settle him down and he’s getting better. So are the skill players.”

Both defenses were dominant.

Butler recovered three fumbles, including one at its own 2, and came up with three fourth-down stops to end Franklin drives.

Fueled by two first half sacks by Proctor, the Wildcats held Butler to minus-27 yards rushing through 24 minutes. The Aviators finished with minus-1 yard on the ground. Proctor also recovered a fumble at the Butler 42-yardline with 5:48 left that set up Franklin’s final scoring drive.

The teams were flagged for 21 penalties, with Franklin incurring 11.

“We have got to clean up the penalties,” Childers said. “We almost shot ourselves in the foot. I’m proud that we won, but we’re so much better than that. We’re going to fix that. We’ve got to fix that.”

Said Proctor: “Last year (St. Marys) was a wakeup call for us. This week at practice is going to be a tough one. We’re ready.”

Butler coach John Puckett declined comment.

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