The Franklin-Simpson Wildcats’ football team lost their second straight Class 4-A Region 1 District 2 game of the season as they took the fight to the Russell County Lakers but wound up on the short end, losing 28-21.

The Wildcats are 0-2 in district play and 0-3 overall for the season as the Lakers are 3-0 in the district and 4-0 overall.

Franklin-Simpson took the early lead on their second possession of the game as junior Luke Richardson completed a 57-yard pass and run to senior Kyjuan Stutzman for the 7-0 lead with sophomore Isaac Callis’ extra point.

Russell County responded on their ensuing possession as senior Dylan Bland ran for a 53-yard touchdown but the extra point was missed as the Wildcats led 7-6.

Then the Lakers took advantage of back to back special teams mistakes by Franklin-Simpson that gave them excellent field position. With that, they scored two touchdowns: a 28-yard run by senior Collin Darnell and a 19-yard touchdown pass from junior Gavin Gossage to senior C.J. Vonfumetti as they took a 20-7 lead with the extra points by freshman Varley Medrano.

The Wildcats cut their deficit in half as they responded with a big drive as senior Malik Carter, who had six carries for 34 yards on the drive, capped it off with a 2-yard touchdown run that made the score 20-14.

With a fumble recovery by sophomore Jesse Punzalan, Franklin-Simpson regained the lead in the 3rd Quarter as they marched their opening drive 66 yards with junior Landon Graves’ 10-yard touchdown run finishing off the drive. Callus’ extra point gave them the lead 21-20.

Later in the quarter, Darnell ran for a 45-yard touchdown, his second of the game that gave Russell County the lead for good. Fossage then completed a pass in the end zone to senior Mason Hinkle for the 2-point conversion that made the final score 29-21.

“I challenged them to fight for the entire game and I knew that Russell County is one of the better teams in our district and the region,” Wildcats head football coach Max Chaney said. “I thought they answered that call. Nobody gave up, quit and they fought to the end. The kids played their tails off. We just had some missed assignments on defense, poor decisions on offense and bad snaps on special teams that put the ball inside of the 20. You can’t do that with the speed and experience they have. They capitalized on that. But overall, we are getting better and they have done what we asked them to do. We can build off of them playing hard and that in turn will make us better.”

The Lakers outgained the Wildcats 320 — 298 in total yards of offense.

Malik Carter had 15 carries for 75 yards for a touchdown and Landon Graves had eight carries for 34 yards for a touchdown. Luke Richardson completed seven of his 18 passes for 133 yards for a touchdown with Kyjuan Stutzman having three receptions for 83 yards for a touchdown.

Collin Darnell had 13 carries for 174 yards for two touchdowns with Dylan Bland having 11 carries for 82 yards with a touchdown and a fumble. C.J. Vonfumetti had two receptions for 27 yards with a touchdown.

“We didn’t know if we would play this season or not but once we could, we set our goal to set ourselves up to win the district title and as of right now, we are in a great position to do that,” Lakers head coach Ryan Richardson said. “(Dylan) Bland and (Collin) Darnell are dandies, they’re special. We knew heading into this season that teams would try to stop them. (Gavin) Gossage didn’t have a good game but he made a throw or two and some plays with his feet. We are blessed to be playing. This is a special group to me and they’ve matured since last season and this is our first win against Franklin-Simpson. A win against a team with a ton of tradition is special.”

The Wildcats are off this Friday night and return to action next Friday night Oct. 16 at the Warren Central Dragons for their third district game of the season.

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