By Joe Williams, Sports Editor
Undefeated and basking in the glow of a homecoming game win, the Franklin Rebels (4-0, 1-0 dis. 11-AAA)head 90-miles south to Fayetteville tomorrow night to face Lincoln County (3-2, 2-0 8-AAA) in a final tune-up before facing four straight District 11-AAA opponents.
Franklin coach Donnie Webb hopes players and fans understand this game is as important as those coming district match-ups.
“It’s important because it’s the next game on our schedule. They might be hearing of future opponents outside of our locker room, but inside it is all about Lincoln County.”
The Falcons, who play in a stadium known statewide simply as, “The Pit,” struggled early due to injuries, losing to Class AA Giles County and Division II-AA Pope John Paul II.
The past three weeks, though, they have ripped off wins over Franklin County, Lebanon and Columbia, averaging over 30 points per game.
“Coach (Don) Thomas has his team playing very physical football and we must be ready for a physical game. My biggest concern is the drastic change in styles of play that our team will face. McGavock and Shelbyville (28-7 and 41-13 wins) wanted to spread the field and try to run around us. Lincoln County is going to line-up and try to run over us.”
Lincoln County has been pretty good at that game plan, especially the last three weeks. Against Columbia, Falcons’ Austin Hill tallied 220 yards while Ryan Golden added 168.
“Both Golden and Hill are good runners, but they got those big numbers because of the physical play of their offensive line,” said Webb. “We must match their physical play. Who is running the ball is not as important as how we are playing at the point of attack.”
The weight of stopping that attack will fall on the shoulders of Tyler Beasley (29 tackles/7 sacks), Josh Filbey (28 tackles/1 sack), Austin Winstead (27 tackles/4 interceptions), Jackson Michie (21 tackles/2 sacks), Nick Hutchins (21 tackles), and Zach Orange (20 tackles/1 sack). The Rebel defense as a whole has earned a reputation this year for being ball hunters, with five or more swarming to the tackle nearly every play.
Offensively, Franklin players are not without their own weapons. Senior Colton Black appears to be back up to speed after injuries cost him most of last season. He has nearly half of the Rebel rushes, gaining 334 yards. Malik Grimes has been strong in the backfield, too, gaining 245 yards on 40 carries.
Junior quarterback Joe Critchlow is continuing a tradition of solid signal callers at Franklin, hitting 60 percent of his attempts so far for 650 yards and nine touchdowns against just three interceptions.
Critchlow enters the game without his favorite target after Garrison Matthews broke his left collarbone on a touchdown catch against Shelbyville. But the Rebels are deep at receiver, with Tony Flemister (13.2 yards per catch), Ben Hagaman (13.0 ypc), and Luke Hill (15.7 ypc) all averaging solid double-digits per catch. DJ Burns, Carson Young and Nic Hardeman are also potential targets.
Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Posted on: 9/25/2013