The 2019 UK Orthopedics KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl Football Playoffs was off to a positive start as the two time and defending Class 4-A state champions, the Franklin-Simpson Wildcats began their quest for an unprecedented third straight championship with a 37-14 victory over the Russell County Lakers.
With the win, the Wildcats have won their 15th straight game against district opponents and their 11th playoff game in a row which is the second longest current streak behind the Beechwood Tigers from Class 2-A, who has won 14 in a row.
"The most important thing is that we won," Wildcats head coach Doug Preston said. "We played pretty good football. We were very physical and Leandre (Stutzman) had another great night. Cooper (Gregory) had maybe his best game of the season. Hunter (Sutton) played well on both sides of the ball. Atakis (Allen) is just a sophomore and with every snap, he is getting better and better. Same with freshmen Keith (Garner) and K.J. (Hardesty). Riley (Brownlee) got his starting spot back at the corner
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as he caused another fumble. Tedric (Partinger) played well on both sides of the ball and had some big carries especially at the end with he and Malik (Carter). Just an overall team win for us."
The Wildcats scored on their opening drive for the ninth tie out of 11 games this season as they got a 37-yard field goal from junior Cole Hollingsworth for an early 3-0 lead.
"We got very confident when Cole (Hollingsworth) kicked the 37-yard field goal," Preston said. "It's nice to have that kind of weapon that we can utilize and good things happen when we can get points like that."
Before the end of the 1st Quarter, Franklin-Simpson scored the first touchdown of the game with senior Leandre Stutzman's 41-yard touchdown run. Hollingsworth's extra point gave them a 10-0 lead at the end of the quarter.
In the 2nd Quarter, Franklin-Simpson added to their lead. Following a turnover on downs, they used a methodical drive that used six minutes and 19 seconds of game clock as they drove 70 yards in 12 plays as sophomore Luke Richardson completed a 14-yard touchdown pass and run by junior Andrew Ogles. The extra point was missed but they led 16-0 at halftime.
The Wildcats' defense set up their first touchdown in the 3rd quarter. Three plays after his interception of Gavin Gossage deep inside Russell County's territory, Stutzman ran for an 8-yard touchdown. Hollingsworth provided the extra point, making the score 23-0.
The Lakers got on the scoreboard on their next possession as they drove 54 yards in six plays with junior Collin Darnall finishing off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Junior Dylan Bland ran for the 2-point conversion that cut their deficit down to 23-8.
But the Wildcats responded back in a big way as on their ensuing possession, they extended their lead back to three scores as Richardson threw his second touchdown pass of the game as he completed a 46-yard touchdown pass and run to Ogles, using the same pass play they scored a touchdown with earlier in the game. Hollingsworth kicked the extra point for a 30-8 lead.
"The offensive plays the coaches drew up for this were working for us," Luke Richardson said. "We executed them. We got off to a slow start and we got a field goal but once we got going, it was good."
"We don't throw much but when we do, there is always someone wide open," Andrew Ogles said. "Tonight it was me and I had to really extend to make that second catch and almost fell down while trying to but I got control of the ball and took it into the end zone."
"The credit goes to coach Matt Marsh," Preston said. "That was really a similar play at Allen County-Scottsville and he throws some different wrinkles and looks in it every week. Give Andrew (Ogles) and Luke (Richardson) a lot of credit for making that play work and scoring touchdowns every time we run that play."
Russell County started their drive late in the 3rd Quarter that carried over into the 4th as they scored their second touchdown of the game as Bland reached into the end zone on an 8-yard run. The 2-point conversion attempt failed as they once again trailed by two scores, 30-14.
Later in the quarter, the Wildcats put the game away as they took advantage of the Lakers' fifth turnover of the game as they drove 81 yards in seven plays. They put the ball in the hands of senior Tedric Partinger and junior Malik Carter. Carter ran the ball four times for 38 yards and Partinger ran three times for 48 yards including his 7-yard touchdown run. With Hollingsworth's extra point, Franklin-Simpson advanced to the district championship game with a 37-14 victory over the Russell County Lakers.
"I told coach give me the football on that last drive," Tedric Partinger said. "The outside has been wide open and I just wanted to take it to the house to seal up this win for us tonight."
The Wildcats outgained the Lakers 386-291 in total yards of offense. Leandre Stutzman led Franklin-Simpson with 157 yards rushing on 11 carries for two touchdowns with Tedric Paringer having 10 carries for 96 yards with a touchdown.
"The coaches drew up a great game plan," Leandre Stutzman said. "Thanks to my blockers on offense as they did a pretty good job. On defense, I just read the quarterback's eyes and tried to make a play on the ball on defense. We knew their two running backs are fast so we had to contain them and get our arms around them to make tackles."
Luke Richardson completed two of his five passes for 60 yards for two touchdowns. Andrew Ogles was the recipient of both of Richardson's touchdown passes.
The Wildcats' defense forced five turnovers with three interceptions and two fumbles. They held the Lakers to 199 yards rushing as Dylan Bland and Collin Darnall earned every yard they ran for. Bland had 15 carries for 61 yards for a touchdown and Darnall had 17 carries for 50 yards for a touchdown. Gavin Gossage led the Lakers with 80 yards rushing on eight carries.
"I'm not a fan of playing your district teams in the opening round of the playoffs but they are a team that we didn't know anything about the first time we played them," Preston said. "Now that we have, we got very familiar and understood what they do. We did a good job in differentiating in which quarterback was taking the snaps and we were focused in on both Bland and Darnall who both are 1,000-yard rushers."
This Friday night, the Wildcats will host the Allen County-Scottsville Patriots for the Region 1 District 2 championship.
RC 0 0 8 6 14
F-S 10 6 14 7 37
F-S Cole Hollingsworth 37-yard field goal 3-0
F-S Leandre Stutzman 41-yard run (Hollingsworth kick) 10-0
F-S Luke Richardson 14-yard pass to Andrew Ogles (kick failed) 16-0
F-S Stutzman 8-yard run (Hollingsworth kick) 23-0
RC Collin Darnall 3-yard run (Dylan Bland runs for 2-point conversion) 23-8
F-S Richardson 46-yard pass to Ogles (Hollingsworth kick) 30-8
RC Bland 8-yard run (2-point conversion failed) 30-14
F-S Tedric Partinger 7-yard run (Hollingsworth kick) 37-14