Heading into last Friday night’s Class 4-A Region 1 District 2 championship game, the Franklin-Simpson Wildcats and the Allen County-Scottsville Patriots are two evenly matched teams as they both finished 3-1 in the district.

In their first meeting of the season, the Patriots defeated the Wildcats on Sept. 24th to have the home field advantage in the district championship game.

The difference in tonight’s game from their previous meeting came down to lucky breaks and clutch plays down the stretch as Franklin-Simpson’s dream for a district championship was unfulfilled as they lost 35-28 to end their season as the district runner-up.

“The guys put up a great fight but we came out flat defensively to start but offensively, they were clicking,” Wildcats’ head coach Max Chaney said. “We did get a stop once in the 1st Half. We had only one punt in the game. I thought coach (Matt) Marsh called a good game that got us down the field pretty good. We couldn’t get stops when we needed them. Allen County-Scottsville is a good team. Much credit goes to them.”

The 1st half was a shootout as both teams scored touchdowns on six of their nine offensive possessions. The Patriots, using a good kickoff return, quickly scored the first touchdown of the game. Senior Jax Cooper’s 25-yard catch and run set up the 9-yard touchdown pass from junior Peyton Cope to senior Colton Costello for a 7-0 lead with senior Thorny Walker’s extra point.

The Wildcats responded with a touchdown on their offensive possession. A pair of 15- yard runs from senior Jayden Wells and junior Landon Graves led to a 7-yard touchdown run from sophomore Isaiah Rigsby, his first of the season. Freshman Griff Banton’s extra point tied the game at 7-7.

The seesaw game continued on both teams’ next possessions as Allen County-Scottsville regained the lead. Jax Cooper’s 57-yard run on the first play of the drive paved the way for a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Christopher Holland. Walker’s extra point gave them a 14-7 lead.

Back came Franklin-Simpson as their drive carried over into the 2nd Quarter as Wells’ 14-yard catch and run on 3rd down led to senior Omar Harrison, who had four carries for 33 yards, scoring his 21st touchdown of the season with an 8-yard run. Banton’s extra point tied the game once again at 14-14.

With a couple of sacks from senior Dakyrus Burr and junior John Dobbs, the Wildcats’ defense forced a turnover on downs. The offense fed off the momentum on their next possession. With an 11-yard run from Wells, a 14-yard run from Harrison and a 40-yard pass from Richardson to junior Jalen Briscoe, Richardson finished the drive with a quarterback sneak for the 1-yard touchdown for the first lead of the game, 21-14 with Banton’s extra point.

Following a sack by Hatcher Link, Franklin-Simpson’s defense had another opportunity for a stop but on 3rd Down with 15 yards to go, Cope threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to junior Jace Jackson. But Walker missed the extra point as the Wildcats led 21-20 at halftime.

Franklin-Simpson’s offense had an opportunity to pad their lead on their opening drive of the 3rd Quarter but could not convert on 4th Down deep in their own territory for a turnover on downs.

Allen County-Scottsville’s ensuing possession found themselves in a 2nd Down and 41 yards to go situation thanks to a sack by Cope and a couple of penalties. But they overcame the adversity with a 13-yard completion to Costello followed by a 32-yard catch and run by Jackson for a touchdown. The Patriots used a trick play to convert the 2-point conversion to retake the lead 28-21.

The Wildcats were forced to punt on their next possession as the Patriots took the ball late in the 3rd Quarter that carried over into the 4th. The Wildcats’ defense forced them into a 4th Down situation and created a fumble on the play but Allen County-Scottsville was able to recover, advance it and gain extra yards with a penalty. Seven plays later, Cope scored a touchdown with a 1-yard quarterback sneak. Walker’s extra point extended their lead to 35-21 with less than six minutes to play.

Franklin-Simpson answered quickly in four plays. Jesse Punxalan’s 23-yard run along with a penalty and Graves’ 17-yard catch and run led to them using a trick play of their own. Richardson flipped the ball to Briscoe who threw it back to Richardson for an 18-yard catch and run for a touchdown. The extra point from Banton cut their deficit down to 35-28.

The Wildcats’ defense gave them an opportunity as they forced a fumble on the Patriots’ first offensive play and recovered it on the Patriots’ 28-yard line.

Franklin-Simpson, needing a touchdown for a chance to tie the game with time running out, had a golden opportunity but on 3rd Down, Richardson’s pass to Graves was tipped at the very last second and intercepted in the end zone by Allen County-Scottsville. The Patriots ran the clock out and the Wildcats’ season as they held on for the 35-28 victory to win the Class 4-A Region 1 District 2 championship for the second season in a row.

“We have improved so much since the last time we played them,” Chaney said. “We are two evenly matched teams. It really came down to a couple of plays. There are definitely two we would love to have back from the defensive standpoint. Offensively, we played pretty well but defensively, we just needed to make a couple of stops and we couldn’t.”

The Patriots outgained the Wildcats 420-316 in total yards of offense. Franklin-Simpson’s Omar Harrison had 13 carries for 72 yards for a touchdown and Jayden Wells had 12 carries for 57 yards as the team rushed for 214 yards. Luke Richardson completed four of his nine passes for 84 yards with two interceptions but also had a receiving and a rushing touchdown.

Peyton Cope completed 14 of his 17 passes fr 216 yards for three touchdowns along with a rushing touchdown for Allen County-Scottsville. Colton Costello had four receptions for 84 yards with Jax Cooper having five receptions for 70 yards.

“Feels good to win this district back to back,” Patriots head coach Brad Hood said. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight. Franklin-Simspon has improved so much from the last time we played them. We knew they would be ready. Max (Chaney) had a great gameplan and his kids executed it well. They were using a lot of clock and that made me nervous but my kids stepped up and made plays when they needed to and the offense moved the ball well all night long.”

The Wildcats end their season with an overall record of 5-7 and District 2 runner-up.

“We will take some time off and get back after it again after Christmas in January,” Chaney said. “The grind doesn’t stop too much and the kids I have in class will already start preparing for the season. If you want to have a good team, you never stop grinding.”

The Patriots will vie for a region championship with their game this Friday night at the Franklin County Flyers in the quarterfinal round of the Class 4-A UK Orthopedics Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl Football Playoffs.

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