SWBL football: Franklin eyes second straight division title

Franklin defeated host Madison 42-6 in a Week 1 high school football game on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
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Franklin defeated host Madison 42-6 in a Week 1 high school football game on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Wildcats have won five league crowns in past nine seasons

The Franklin High School football team will lean on an experienced defense and increased physicality to guide the Wildcats during their run at a second consecutive Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division title.

Franklin is replacing most of its skill players on offense, but brings back three starters on the offensive line and several returners on defense, which will feature eight or nine seniors on the field together in certain packages.

The Wildcats open the season Friday at home against Monroe and will be seeking their sixth league title in 10 years.

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“We’re a different type of team, a lot bigger than we’ve been up front on both sides,” seventh-year coach Brad Childers said. “We have some experience on the offensive line, and defensively we’re loaded with seniors, … so we feel we can hang our hat on defense. Although we graduated a lot of guys in the secondary, we have some guys that were just waiting their turn to play. We’re excited about the defense. The offense is coming along. Any offense takes time, and I felt late last week we started to see the difference in practice. We’re getting better.”

Franklin’s defense will be led by senior linebacker Gunner Lakins, senior defensive linemen Izac Proctor, Cajun Allen and Caleb Barnhart and junior linebacker Pierce Bauerle.

Junior quarterback Drew Isaacs, a lefty who was named the starter Tuesday, takes control of the offense and playing behind Braden Woods the last two years. Sophomore backup Tressel Gibson will move into a starting role at cornerback.

Turnover on offense won’t change the expectations for Franklin, Childers said.

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“It’s always the expectation at Franklin to go into a season thinking we are going to win a league championship and that’s our goal,” Childers said. “They know that they want to repeat but know it won’t be easy. We have to handle ourselves and live for the play-by-play and not look ahead, not take anything for granted and just play at a high level. It’s time to stop talking and go show.”

Madison back on track?

Madison hired former New Miami coach Jessie Hubbard in January after he directed the Vikings to a 16-6 record, two Miami Valley Conference Gray Division titles and a pair of Division VII playoff berths in his two seasons.

Now the Mohawks are hoping he can bring some of that magic back to their program. Madison is coming off a 5-5 finish in 2019 under Ricky Davis, who resigned after one season, but Hubbard believes the Mohawks can contend once again for the division title this fall. They won back-to-back Southwestern Buckeye League-Buckeye Division titles in 2017 and 2018 and made the Division V state semifinals in 2017 and the regional finals in 2018.

“(The) 2017 and ’18 seasons were some of the best years for Madison football, but the injury bug hit last year and you can’t afford to have those,” Hubbard said. “I think we’ll be back to being great this year but it comes back to being healthy. The talent and work ethic are there right now.”

The Mohawks will have a new quarterback with Quincy Brown graduated, and the five-person competition was narrowed down to senior Dalton Henry and freshman Brady Haas. However, the offense is helped by the return of four starters on the line, as well as running backs Logan Gibson and Justin Gray. First-team all-SWOC linebacker Devin Oligee leads the defense.

Monroe begins Year 2 with Mullins

Bobby Mullins will be looking for more improvement in his second season with Monroe, which went 2-8 for a second straight year and hasn’t had a winning season since 2015.

The Hornets lost three games by 10 points or less and have several returning players ready to help push the team over the hump, including most of the defense. Senior quarterback Collin Deaton is back leading the triple-option offense, while fullbacks Elijah Jackson and Blake Keeton and junior running back Alex Pitsch will need to step up to get the running game going after seeing limited carries behind graduate Tyler Tracey in 2019.

Franklin’s Childers had a chance to watch Monroe scrimmage last week – from behind a chain-link fence – and said he saw an “inspired football team.”

“I can see the difference from last year to this year,” Childers said of Monroe. “His kids look more physical, motivated.”

Carlisle powering through

Carlisle second-year coach Scott Clodfelter has the benefit of returning his top two rushers from last year, as the Indians try to solve scoring woes from 2019.

The Indians averaged 260 yards rushing per game last year but scored just 12.7 points per game and finished 1-9 after a winless 2018 campaign. Junior wingback Talon Borders (1,030 yards, four touchdowns on 138 carries) and junior fullback Brice Naylor (897 yards, eight touchdowns on 210 carries) are back to lead the way, and the Indians all should be more comfortable in Clodfelter’s triple-option offense this year.

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