The Franklin High School football team’s injury-plagued season came to an end Friday night as the Wildcats were handed a first-round playoff exit by New Richmond.
Lions junior quarterback Josh Anderson’s 8-yard touchdown run with 1:43 left proved to be the game-winner, propelling New Richmond to a 17-10 win in a Division III, Region 12 quarterfinal at Atrium Stadium.
The Lions (9-2) will face Chaminade Julienne,a 49-28 upset winner over Alter, in the regional semifinals next Friday at a neutral site.
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A pair of poorly executed punts preceded both of New Richmond’s second-half scoring drives, and costly penalties extended those drives.
Just three plays before Anderson’s game-winning run, Franklin (8-3) was whistled for a roughing-the-passer penalty on a failed fourth-down conversion. Instead of the Wildcats taking over at their own 19 in a tie game, the Lions continued their drive at the 10,.
“When you’re playing a really good football team like New Richmond and you make a mistake, it’s really tough to overcome in big games like this,” Franklin coach Brad Childers said. “On the roughing-the-passer penalty, I couldn’t tell you whether it was or it wasn’t. At the end of the night, the call went against us.”
To that point, the Wildcats had managed to keep the game tied at 10 despite 65 penalty yards and three punts of less than 25 yards. In the third quarter, a blocked punt tied the game and erased a 10-7 Franklin lead when the Lions converted it into a field goal. Late in the fourth, a wobbling 21-yard punt by Franklin set up the game-winning drive in Wildcats territory.
“They beat us in the third phase of the game tonight, the kicking game,” Childers said. “That’s uncharacteristic of our team.”
Anderson’s game-winning run was his second TD of the night. The 1,000-yard rusher and 1,800-yard passer led his team with 91 rushing yards on 19 carries and completed 10 of his 18 passes for 115 yards and two interceptions. His first-quarter 41-yard touchdown run, on fourth-and-1, opened the scoring.
“I just focused on the playing the next play,” Anderson said. “No matter what happens, good or bad, the next play is all that matters.”
T.J. Gelter balanced the rushing attack with 61 yards on 15 carries and also caught three passes for 22 yards. Chandler Kinhalt led all receivers with five catches for 51 yards.
“It wasn’t pretty tonight, but we got it done,” New Richmond coach Patrick Burke said. “We were able to fall back on what we do in our program, our culture and fundamentals. That’s what won us the game tonight.”
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After Anderson’s 41-yard burst, Franklin managed to contain the speedy quarterback and take a lead of its own into halftime. A 38-yard field goal by Matt Schneider and a 4-yard touchdown run by Matt Centers on back-to-back drives gave the Wildcats a 10-7 lead.
Centers, also a standout linebacker, led the Wildcats in the first half with eight carries and 41 yards to go along with his touchdown, but had just two carries for 15 yards in the second half. Centers had just 11 total carries in the regular season, but was called upon to help fill the voids left by multiple backfield injuries.
“I’m really proud of this team and our coaches. Not just tonight, but all season,” Childers said. “They could have just laid down and quit (after key injuries), but they kept fighting all year long. My hat goes off to New Richmond. They are a really good team.”
Sophomore quarterback Braden Woods completed 13 of 25 passes for 145 yards with a pair of interceptions.
Senior wide receiver Jared Kinzer, who caught three balls for 47 yards, was impressed with his young quarterback and other non-starters who were forced into starting roles out of necessity.
“The very first game in Piqua (in Week 3) Braden went 100 percent, and we knew this guy was ready to go,” Kinzer said. “The list goes on and on of the guys we lost this year, but we had a ‘next man up’ mentality and so many other guys stepped up.”
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Just steps away from a celebrating locker room full of visiting players and coaches who were scoreboard watching for their next opponent, Kinzer and his fellow seniors were exiting the home locker room — in uniform — for the last time.
“This is closest I have ever been with a football team,” an emotional Kinzer said. “All of us on this team are brothers. This team has handled adversity more than any team I’ve seen. I just can’t believe it’s all over.”
Childers said the emotions surrounding the locker room were shared by players and spectators.
“This community, this school, this program is a tradition of excellence,” Childers said. “They care. You can see it in the kids when they walk out of here, and that’s important. That’s what makes me proud to be their head football coach. They didn’t quit. That’s just a sign of their character and their toughness, and shows what kind of young men they are.”
New Richmond 7-0-3-7—17
N: Josh Anderson 41 run (Luke Lytle kick)
F: Matt Schneider 38 field goal
F: Matt Centers 4 run (Schneider kick)
N: Lytle 26 field goal
N: Anderson 8 run (Lytle kick)