- John Cummings Contributing Writer
It was a lesson Franklin High School football coach Brad Childers didn’t especially want his players to learn the way they did, but they did.
The Wildcats turned the ball over five times in a 34-3 loss to Valley View in Week 5, their lone loss heading into homecoming festivities Friday night against Bellbrook.
“We learned not to play the game before the game,” Childers said of that night in Germantown. “Every team has high expectations of us and we have to play at a high level, and we learned that the hard way.”
Since then, Childers has seen a change in his squad, which is 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division.
Franklin rebounded to put 55 points on Waynesville and enters Friday’s Southwestern showdown as the No. 2 team in Division III, Region 12 Harbin computer standings.
Bellbrook is 4-2, 2-1, after dropping a 41-34 decision to Valley View. The Golden Eagles also would be in the playoffs right now, sitting fourth in Region 12.
“This is a big game in the league and with us being in the same region,” Bellbrook coach Jeff Jenkins said. “We are going to treat it equally, but our goal is to peak at the right time of the year. With Valley View and Franklin back to back, we have to be on our game.”
The Golden Eagles enter as a ground-first attack as usual, with Justin Sloan pulling the bulk of the weight with 642 yards on 111 carries.
Franklin will counter with a different look as University of Cincinnati commit Ryan Montgomery (85 carries, 740 yards) is out for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury last weekend.
The Wildcats will go with the next men up in the backfield to go with the arm of Braden Woods (35 of 52, 471 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions) and the hands of Jared Kinzer (23 receptions, 265 yards, three TDs).
Woods is Franklin’s top active runner with 171 yards on 19 carries. Carson Bowling (16 carries, 84 yards) and Clay Winstead (17 carries, 47 yards) are next.
“Every week is a different challenge,” Jenkins said. “Their offensive and defensive lines are tough and really set the tone, and they’ve got a lot of weapons.”
Both coaches point to the line of scrimmage as one of the keys, but the No. 1 thing for Childers is to take care of what can be handled on their sideline.
“Our motto this year has been ‘Next Play,’ ” Childers said. “We have to concentrate on our execution and focus on one play at a time.”
Both defenses have been hawkish. Through six games, the two defenses have combined to force 27 turnovers.
“Turnovers have been a big factor for us,” Jenkins said. “We’ve got to continue to improve how we take care of the ball and keep getting turnovers, and we are getting better at it each week.”
Franklin is just working on being better at building on the legacy of a program that beat Bellbrook 51-13 in 2016.
“Every day we go out and work on getting better fundamentally,” Childers said. “We preach, and the kids understand now, there wasn’t one player or one coach who built this program. It was everyone who came through here who built the tradition of excellence.”