(by Don Meador, The Citizen-Times, used with permission)
An old sport saying goes like this…offense sells the tickets, defense wins the championships. That saying proved to be significant last Friday night as the suffocating defense of Franklin-Simpson slowed the high-powered Patriot offense resulting in the Wildcats downing the Patriots 30-7.
“They were a lot of negatives in the game,” Hood said. “We weren’t able to do a lot offensively. We will be trying to figure out what happened and what we need to do to bounce back.”
The Wildcats dominated the contest through a “three-yards and a cloud of dust” ground game that pounded the Patriot defense for four quarters. Franklin-Simpson recorded two scoring drives of 11 plays that combined to take over 11 minutes off the clock. In addition, the Wildcats held the ball over nine minutes in the third quarter on an 18-play, 89 yard drive.
“Our defense was on the field way too long,” Hood pointed out. “Yet, they fought, and fought, and fought but they were on the field way too long.”
Franklin-Simpson’s dominating running game started off the bat with an 11-play, 58-yard scoring drive on their first possession. After taking a 6-0 lead following a missed PAT, the Wildcats added a second score---a score aided by an AC-S turnover.
Patriot quarterback Chase Wilson---facing a third-and-13 at his own 20 yard line---came under intense pressure by the Wildcat pass rush. While scrambling and looking for a receiver to break free in the secondary, Wilson lost the ball. Franklin-Simpson recovered at the AC-S two-yard line. On their first play, Carlos McKinney scored. The PAT lifted the Wildcats to a 13-0 lead at the 5:55 mark of the first.
The Patriot offense countered with what turned out to be one of their best drives of the game. Wilson went to the air, hooking up with Jacob Lightfoot for a seven yard gain. Two plays later, Wilson connected with Cayden Ross for a 27 yard gain, moving the pigskin into Wildcat territory. Senior fullback Brock Meador burst free for an 18-yard gain to the Franklin-Simpson 28. However, the drive stalled.
Getting the ball back after a Franklin-Simpson three-and-out, AC-S continued to slow their ability to move the ball. Starting at their 31 yard line, Wilson and Ross hooked up for a pair of passes for a combined 42 yards. Meador moved the ball to the Wildcats’ 30-yard line---a rushing play that saw Meador suffer a knee injury. He would leave the game and two plays later, Wilson found Ross for a 19-yard touchdown. The PAT pulled AC-S to within six with 16.7 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats added a 20 yard field goal at the 5:44 mark of the second quarter---capping an 11 play drive. The Patriots could not move the ball on their next possession or take advantage of Steven Whitney’s recovery of a Wildcat fumble inside the Franklin-Simpson 30 yard line with three minutes left in the first half.
Neither would tye Patriots benefit from possession to start the second half. A one yard run and a pair of incomplete passes forced AC-S to punt the ball back to the Wildcats. Franklin-Simpson took possession at their 10 yard line used running plays over and over, and 17 plays and nine minutes later faced a fourth and goal from the one yard line. In what proved to be the defensive stand of the game, McKinney was stopped from scoring at the one foot line. The Patriot defensive stance kept AC-S in the game for the moment.
Once again, AC-S could not move the ball on offense. After three plays and no yards, Sheldon Peay booted the ball from the back of the end zone. The Wildcats took over at the Patriot 37 yard line. Two plays later, James Baker score don a 26-yard run, giving the visitors a 23-7 lead after the successful PAT.
Franklin-Simpson nailed the AC-S coffin shut with a four-play, 75 yard scoring drive. Baker’s 62 yard touchdown run with 7:35 left in the game all but secured the district win for the Wildcats.
“Our offense was not there,” coach Hood said. “I did not see a lot of positives. We have to find a way to get better.”
The Patriots were held to 76 total yards after the inclusion of lost yardage into the Patriot offensive stats. Wilson completed seven passes for 109 yards---his lowest passing yards total since the final game of the 2015 season in the playoffs at South Warren. However, Wilson was sacked six times. Ross led the way with five catches for 105 yards while Lightfoot---the state’s leading receiver prior to Friday night---was limited to seven yards on one reception.
The Wildcats (4-3, 1-0) rushed the ball 61 times for 358 yards. McKinney finished with 126 yards on 29 touches while Baker added 100 yards on the ground.
Going forward, AC-S will also be addressing some injury questions. Meador will have a knee checked this week and Peay will have ribs looked at for a possible injury.
AC-S (5-2, 0-1) will be off this Friday prior to their second district game of the year. The Patriots will be at Warren East on October 13---a game that the Patriots mill need a win to keep their chances of a home playoff game still on the table.