LOREAUVILLE — When the Franklin Hornets traveled to No. 2 seed Loreauville for the second round of the LHSAA Football Playoffs, everyone expected a repeat of the high-scoring contest from week 4 of the regular season.
What nobody expected was a game decided by two outstanding defenses.
Loreauville received the kickoff to start the game, but was unable to find the end zone on its first drive, punting to the Franklin 1-yard line. The Hornets were in turn stymied by an excellent Tiger defense. The Hornets forced a second punt from the Tigers following a string of incomplete passes from Loreauville quarterback Calep Jacob. The Hornets moved the ball all the way to the Loreauville 1-yard line, but a fumble returned possession to the Tigers.
The second quarter saw yet another pair of punts, as both defenses proved to be too much for the other to overcome. Following a crucial punt return to get the Tiger’s into scoring position, a run by senior Ethan Simon gave the Tigers their first lead of the night.
The Hornets answered with a touchdown of their own, a fantastic pass from Zylan Perry after a poor snap forced him to improvise. Franklin completed its 2-point conversion, giving them a 1-point lead with little time remaining in the half. The Tigers tried to mount one last attack before halftime, but the Franklin defense forced a fumble from Jacob. The Hornets let the remaining time elapse, leaving both coaches with much to work on before starting the second half.
The second half began with a kickoff to the Hornets, who looked to capitalize on their 2-point lead. The Loreauville defense was called upon again to halt the Hornet progress, forcing a turnover to give the Tigers the ball. Loreauville was able to move the ball down to the Hornet red zone, but a series of penalty calls forced the team into a fourth down situation. Loreauville coach Terry Martin elected to look for the touchdown instead of a field goal, but a dropped pass from an uncovered Ethan Simon gave the ball back to Franklin.
The Tigers managed to keep the the dangerous Perry reined in, forcing a punt from deep in Franklin’s own half. A run by Jacob gave the Tigers a 14-8 lead in the fourth quarter. On the following drive, a deep pass by Perry was intercepted by Loreauville’s Collin Jacob.
The Tigers were unable to make anything of the ensuing drive, punting the ball with time dwindling in the game. A fantastic run by the Hornets on third and long gave the Franklin the first down and kept their playoff dreams alive. In the red zone, with less than a minute remaining, theHornets found the end zone on fourth down via another fantastic pass from Perry. The Hornets completed another 2-point conversion to make the score 16-14 with less than a minute remaining.
A great kickoff return by Calep Jacob gave the Tigers excellent field position, and a few complete passes moved Loreauville into field goal range with 3 seconds remaining. Franklin’s defense pulled together one last time, blocking the field goal attempt and punching their ticket into the LHSAA quarterfinals.
“We made some changes on defense, put a couple guys in different positions,” Franklin coach Tremayne Johnson said. “My defensive coordinator stepped in and studied film and made the right adjustments.”
Those defensive adjustments made the difference, with the Hornets holding Loreauville to just 161 total yards. Franklin managed 127 passing yards and 79 rushing yards.
“In the first half, we couldn’t get anything going like we wanted to,” Martin said. “Once we found something that worked a little bit, we had a good drive in the second half. We did a couple of things, undisciplined plays, that cost us.”
When asked about the blocked field goal that sealed their defeat, Martin added “It shouldn’t have come down to that. We had some chances to make stops but … we had a couple of plays at the wrong time where we didn’t take care of what we needed to and that’s the difference in a game like this.”
The 15th-seeded Franklin Hornets will play No. 7 seed Jonesboro-Hodge at home in the next round.