FRANKLIN — Franklin’s offense was so good, it also produced the defensive play of the game.
The Lions turned a showdown against the Buffalo Bison for the District 13-3A Division II lead into a runaway 69-38 victory Friday night at Lion Stadium.
Seventh-ranked Franklin (6-2, 5-0) rushed for 667 yards, averaging 12.6 yards per carry, and that’s with several second-stringers taking over for the last two possessions. The Lions stretched their winning streak to six, handing Buffalo (7-1, 3-1) its first loss.
Franklin had four unanswered touchdowns for a 42-20 lead early in the third quarter, leading on big runs. The Lions took a 28-20 lead on a 65-yard run by Bryson Washington, and seven plays later Seth Spiller had a 79-yard TD run for a 35-20 halftime lead. The Lions opened the second half with 42-yard touchdown run by Washington, who had 261 yards and four touchdowns on 12 carries. Spiller added 189 yards and three scores on eight carries. Franklin had nine runs of at least 26 yards with Bobby Washington and Malcolm Murphy combining for 131 yards rushing on 19 carries.
“All those guys have pretty good vision,” Franklin first-year coach Mark Fannin said. “They see a hole and they can cut on a dime and hit it pretty well.”
Franklin outscored Buffalo 54-18 in the last three quarters, but the Bison offense was just as lethal for the first 12 minutes behind quarterback Brett Hoffman, who threw for 364 yards and three touchdowns along with running for one.
Buffalo took its third lead of the game on Eric Beshears’ 95-yard kickoff return for a TD. The speedster hit a seam in the middle, and 15 seconds later, Buffalo had a 20-14 lead.
Buffalo had a chance to make the game’s first big defensive play when Franklin tried to throw deep into a stiff breeze on the first play of the second quarter. A Buffalo defender was poised for an interception, but Franklin wide receiver Hayden Helton knocked the football free.
“That was heads-up,” Fannin said. “He just turned into a defensive back.”
Five plays later, Washington skirted around the left end for a 3-yard touchdown run and a 21-20 lead. Franklin’s defense complemented the offense with back-to-back stops.
The Lions’ pursuit stopped a swing pass on fourth-and-4 at the Franklin 28 with 6:27 left in the half. That led to Washington’s 65-yard touchdown. Buffalo was in position to answer by reaching Franklin’s 24, but the Lions caused a fumble with Washington recovering. Three plays later, Spiller dashed 79 yards up the gut.
“We kept saying as a coaching staff, we’ve just gotta get a stop. We’ve gotta get a stop,” Fannin said. “Finally, we started causing some turnovers.”
And Buffalo’s defense was helpless in stopping the Lions, who never punted. Franklin might have rushed for 800 yards if Buffalo could have executed kickoffs. The Bison opted for pooch or squib kickoffs as Franklin’s average starting position after Buffalo’s six touchdowns was the Buffalo 48-yard line. The offensive line did the rest.
“That offensive line, that’s a special group of kids,” Fannin said. “They’re learning how to finish blocks and they love being offensive linemen. And as a coach, you want that kind of group that love that old-school football that just get after it in the trenches.”
Franklin didn’t have a negative run until two knell downs to end the game.
“Those [backs] play hard,” Fannin said. “They run hard and they trust those offensive linemen to do their job and it worked out tonight.”
Franklin center Charlie Scarpinato, guards Cody Owens and Keegan Wilson and tackles Quade Lopez and Russell Stegall cleared the way for the Lion backs. Franklin, which huddles just a few yards from the line of scrimmage and quickly snaps the ball, also leans on tight end Braden Smith and Helton for blocking.
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