Interception return for TD enough for Franklin to top Carlisle

FRANKLIN – Reagen Brown wears No. 6 on his Franklin football jersey for a reason. It’s his favorite number because of the military phrase, “I’ve got your 6.”

“I’ve always got my team’s back,” he said.

Brown had his team’s 6 on Friday night. No. 6 got a pick 6 – a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown – in the first quarter. Brown’s 6 points were enough for the Wildcats in a 7-0 victory over previously unbeaten Carlisle in a physical Southwestern Buckeye League crossover game.

Brown stepped in front of a pass by Carlisle’s Kole Larison and went the distance with 6:13 left in the first quarter. After the game, Brown wore the team’s interception chain around his neck with a mini football hanging from it.

“My adrenaline was rushing,” Brown said. “I never expected that ball to come right in my window – it was crazy. I watched film, read the play right, the ball came right to me.”

Brown said he watched Carlisle games over and over and that film tells you what you need to know.

“We prepare our kids really, really well,” said first-year Franklin coach Larry Cox. “We had a good week of practice, we really did, so I’m not shocked that our kids were in the right place at the right time. That’s part of keeping your composure – are you ready to make a play?”

Franklin (3-1) was bend-don’t-break on defense as Carlisle (3-1) outgained the Wildcats 230-92. Carlisle, however, committed four turnovers. Ethan Adkins and Tressel Gibson had second-half interceptions for Franklin.

“Our defense just keeps getting better and better each week, and they pulled us out of the fire every time we needed it,” Cox said.

After the game, two assistant coaches told Cox it’s a tradition for the game ball to go to the defensive coordinator after a shutout. Steve Woods got the game ball.

Gibson’s pick in the end zone with 4:19 left set up the Wildcats to run out the clock.

“The best thing our offense did was, No. 1, not turn the ball over and, No. 2, close the game out in the last four minutes,” said Cox, who has brought a split-back veer rushing attack to the Wildcats. “We just have to be patient. Eventually it will click.”

Carlisle coach Scott Clodfelter said the turnovers were the difference, but he still likes the direction his team is headed to be in this kind of low-scoring defensive game. Clodfelter came to Carlisle in 2019 after the Indians had an 0-10 season. They were 1-9 in his first year and 4-6 last year.

“Defense was outstanding, and when you look at our team, I was proud of how hard they played,” Clodfelter said. “We’re improving our program, and I’m happy how the kids have bought into what we’re doing.”

The Indians’ running game leans on Talon Borders and Brice Naylor. The best chance they had to score was after Borders sprinted 45 yards down the sideline to the Franklin 14 two possessions after the Brown touchdown. But on third-and-four at the 8, Adkins threw the Indians for a 3-yard loss. The Indians turned the ball over on downs on the next play.

Carlisle caught Franklin off guard and almost scored as it let the clock run down toward halftime and snapped the ball with a second left near midfield. Larison threw deep to a wide-open Brooklyn Tilton, but Adkins ran him down just inside the 20 to end the half. It was the only completed pass of the game in a combined seven attempts.

“Defense is always solid,” Brown said, “always a team effort.”

And always has the offense’s back.

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