After weeks of conditioning, practicing and scrimmages, the Franklin-Simpson Wildcats are kicking off their 2019 season against the Greenwood Gators from Class 5-A.
Kickoff from James "Shadetree" Mathews Stadium is at 7 p.m. 1220 WFKN Franklin radio will broadcast the game beginning with the Wildcats' Scouting Report at 6:30 p.m. followed by the Wildcats' Pre-Game Show at 6:45 p.m. The game will also be streamed on the Internet by visiting www.franklinfavorite.com and clicking on the WFKN link in the blue toolbar. Then click on the WFKN Sports tab and press the play button.
"I like the way the team looked, flying around to the football last Friday night against Apollo, but you never know until you face a tough defense," Wildcats head coach Doug Preston said. "We're moving the ball pretty well offensively and our conditioning was tested and we held up ok. We have made some mistakes in our defensive alignment but in some ways, we are further ahead at this point than we were last year. It's little stuff and it is expected at this time of the year."
Under Preston, Franklin-Simpson has won the last three games against Greenwood. The series of games have had some incredible moments including Jackson Caudill's game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass to Hunter James with 14 seconds remaining for a 24-20 victory in 2016. But this will be the first time that both teams have played each other to start their season.
Franklin-Simpson still runs the Wing-T offense with varying styles and with options to run or throw the football. Defensively, it is still the base 4-3 with some different schemes and formations. Sophomore Luke Richardson is the starting quarterback for Franklin-Simpson as he played all 15 games in that position last season. He completed 45 of his 78 passes for 828 yards for nine touchdowns with six interceptions.
William Howard begins his second season as head coach for Greenwood. They finished 2-9 his inaugural season. With hopes to improve from last season, the Gators have moved on from the triple option veer offense to the spread offense out of the Wing T shotgun formation. Due to last season's injuries for Greenwood, then sophomore John Morrison was inserted into the quarterback position. He threw for 696 yards, completing 61 of his 127 passes, for five touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games. It was the change in offense to spread because of Morrison's athleticism.
"Due to our injuries last season, we transitioned into working with a spread offense with a Wing T look," Gators head coach William Howard said. "We want to run the football when we possibly can but willing to throw it around a bit when we can."
The Wildcats are looking to win their second straight season opener. In 2017, they lost their season opener at home, 55-23 to the Elizabethtown Panthers. The Gators are looking to win their fifth straight season opener. They lost their season opener at the Madisonville-North Hopkins Maroons 13-9 in 2014.
Both teams want to run the football so the keys to the game are somewhat similar.
"They are a spread, shotgun Wing T offense and I'm sure they have some plays under center but Greenwood looks much improved," Preston said. "They have some athletes, David Odom and Reed Slone in particular, that can hurt you when they run or catch the football. Morrison throws the football very well. He steps up in the pocket with a lot of confidence. They are fundamentally sound, especially on defense, so in my mind, they are much better football team than what they were last year. So defensively, we can't give up big plays and they will throw down the field some. Need to force some turnovers and limit our penalties and move the football. It is going to be a tough game. It will not be easy."
"We don't have much depth at all," Howard said. "Our number twos are basically inexperienced so we will do what we can to keep our starters in the game and the backups will get some experience. So that means, conditioning will be huge and can our offense keep the Wildcats' offense off the field. The vest defense may be a good clock management offense because they look almost as fast and explosive on offense as they were last year."