FRANKLIN — With a roster of only 20 players, most of whom play both sides of the ball, Franklin High School Head Football Coach Tremayne Johnson knew his team was playing a numbers game Friday night against a bigger, deeper depth Kaplan football team. For the first half of the game, the Hornets ignored those numbers and fought to pull to within 4 points of the Pirates, 16-12 at half time.
The second half was a different story as Kaplan’s continued pounding the ball up the middle, while substituting players after every series took a physical toll on the Hornets, whose players struggled with fatigue and cramping, resulting in a 32 to 12 loss for the Hornets.
The Hornets started the game with two false starts, then had to wait as the first down chains were fixed.
Following the delay, Franklin turned the ball over on downs and Kaplan marched down the field on a 50-yard run by Drake LeJeune. Nathan Sistrunk scored on the following play and the Pirates add a two-point conversion.
The Hornets bad luck continued their second series of the game, with two plays of no gains and an interception by Quarterback Travis Zeno. The Pirates quickly scored on Sistrunk’s second touchdown and added another 2-point conversion to stretch the lead to 16 to 0 in the first quarter.
What had the makings of a blowout quickly changed as the Hornets fought back. “I’m really proud of the way we came back,” Johnson said.
“We just stayed scrappy, especially on defense.”
That comeback began with the Hornets marching down the field and Zeno scoring on a short run. An un sportsman like penalty negated the td, however on the next play Zeno ran 12 yards into the end zone making the score 16-6 following a failed 2-point conversion.
Franklin’s defense stiffened, stifling the Pirate’s run and forcing a fumbles recovered by Defensive Back Jordan McCoy. The Hornets began the series with an 8-yard run by Wide Receiver J’Michael Gray. Zeno and Gray teamed up for a 35-yard pass that brought them to the 10-yard line. Following a sack, Zeno teamed up with Gray for a 10-yard touchdown.
The Hornets went for a 2-point conversion and appeared to get it before referees negated it on a penalty leaving Johnson flabbergasted. “We used the 2-swing gate system, where the quarterback lines up as center on 2-point conversions for 2 or 3 years and never had a problem with the referees until tonight,” Johnson said. That left the score 16 to 12 in the 2 nd quarter.
Following a 15-yard penalty on the Pirates for unsportsman like conduct, the Hornets recovered a second forced fumble giving Franklin hopes of putting points on the board before the half. But Zeno threw his second interception of the game and that ended the quarter.
With the start of the second half that numbers game that Johnson feared loomed powerfully over the Hornets as fatigue and cramps caused several players to miss plays and the Pirates freely substituted players in and out of the game. Sistrunk, Hayes Abshire ran at will with each scoring a touchdown in the third and fourth quarters pushing the score to 32 to 12.
The Hornets forced two more fumbles in the second half, but the offense was stifled by the Pirates defense and penalties. Johnson was not happy with his team’s 9 penalties on the night, but he was pleased with his defense, in the season’s first game on a hot, muggy night. “We’re going to get better as the season goes, and we’ll be ready when district play starts,” Johnson said. The coach also had praise
for his quarterback saying he did a lot of good things, and the interceptions are a minor setback.
“For him it’s just knowing how to mentally stay in the game and understand it’s more of a chess game and not checkers.”
McCoy finished the night with two fumble recoveries, while brothers Brandon and Cameron Cleary, both Linebackers, each had the other two fumble recoveries.
Other defensive standouts were Linebacker Gharin Stansbury, Jakyri Winston, and McCoy. On offense, Zeno finished with 110 yards passing with one touchdown and 20 yards rushing with one touchdown. Gray had 75 yards receiving and one touchdown.
Johnson added that offensive/defensive linebacker Isaiah Lancelin, who was taken to the hospital by ambulance for dehydration, was ok.
The Hornets will be back in action next week against Central LaFourche.