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Football Preview: Rebels shift gears in bid to return to playoffs

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Seven points.

For the Franklin High School Rebels, that was the difference between first place and fourth place in Region 6-6A last year, as a three-point loss to Brentwood in the first week and four-point loss to Ravenwood in the third week made the difference.

“We remember,” Franklin head coach Donnie Webb said. “But that was last year.”

This is a new year for Webb and the county’s oldest high school, which bills itself as the "flagship" school.

Franklin has a strong base from which to start, with three returners in the offensive line who have good size, quickness and unique talents. Miles Burgess, a 6-foot-1, 250-pound senior, junior Jason Amsler (6-5, 295), and sophomore Fisher Anderson (6-6, 260) all bring something special. Burgess is a beast in the weight room, Amsler already has scored a 35 on the ACT and Fisher is drawing attention from teams in nearly every Power Five conference.

Eight other players are fighting for positions among the blocking corps, giving Franklin great depth.

The backfield is where the biggest changes will come. Last year’s starter at quarterback, senior Josh Nichols (6-2, 170), has moved to receiver as the Rebels change their offensive sets to more of an option, with senior Guy Lipscomb (6-1, 170), moving under center.

“We feel like Guy may be our best athlete, and you want the ball in your best athlete’s hands,” Webb said.

Being caught in the middle of an offensive scheme change might have soured some players, but Webb says that has not been the case for Nichols.

“I am super proud of Josh," Webb said. "He is going to get the opportunity to play quarterback at the next level, and he’s moved to receiver and blocking his tail off. It’s given me a great respect for him as a football player and young man. He is willing to do whatever is best for his team.”

Going to a one-back set, a mix of three players will be called on to run the ball. Senior John Kirkpatrick (6-2, 230) and juniors Grayson Bruce (6-1, 170), and D.J. Durham (6-1, 190) will split time as the three will also play on the defensive side. Senior slot backs Christian Hendricks (5-8, 150) and Christian Clemente will also help carry the load.

Defensively, this may be the youngest group Webb has had to work with since returning to Franklin. Last year’s strong point — the team held seven opponents to three scores or less — is this year’s project, something the coach is hoping doesn’t take a full year to develop.

“We basically have three starters returning (in) Durham, Kirkpatrick and Jett Wilson,” Webb said

Sophomores dominate the defensive line, including Jackson Riley, Clay Crowder (6-1, 230). Junior Jeremy King will also season action there. At linebacker, Durham and Kirkpatrick lead the way, while senior Jett Wilson (5-9, 160) and two-sport athlete Reed Kemp will carry a bigger load in the secondary to give Lipscomb time to concentrate on offense.

“Jett Wilson has started since he was a sophomore and, pound for pound, he’s the toughest player we’ve got,” Webb said

Senior Ian Burr (5-9, 165) continues a long tradition of great kickers at Franklin and will handle all special teams footwork.

This story and photos are included in the 2019 Williamson Herald High School Football Media Guide! Pick up your copy for stories like this, full schedules, predictions and more!

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