The Franklin-Simpson Wildcats' football team secured the number one position in the district portion of the Class 4-A Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl Football playoffs with a 48-21 victory over the Warren East Raiders.
With the win, the Wildcats finish district play with a 4-0 record and have won 16 straight games against district opponents. They will host the number four seed Russell County Lakers on Nov. 8 in the opening round of the playoffs. The other district matchup will have Warren East, who is the number three seed, on the road at the number two seed Allen County-Scottsville Patriots.
"Personally, I thought Russell County is the toughest of the four other district teams as they are explosive and very dangerous every time they touch the football," Wildcats' head coach Doug Preston said. "Offensively, they are the team that worried me the most so we will have our work cut out for us when we play them on Nov. 8."
It was Senior Night and before the game, seniors from the band, cheer, dance and football teams were honored and recognized.
"The senior class is a big part of our accomplishments over the past four years with two state championships; state runner-up, three district, region and state semifinal championships. They have won so much over the past three seasons, this is the first time they had to fight through injuries and things we haven't had happen to us," Preston said. "To lose the first four games and to now win five in a row and hopefully counting says a lot about their character."
For the second week in a row, the Wildcats scored five touchdowns in the first half as they took advantage of four consecutive turnovers, three fumbles and an interception by the Raiders.
"The past two weeks, we have forced a lot of turnovers. All of the turnovers we forced were true takeaways," Preston said. "Weather didn't force the turnovers, we made plays for interceptions and made hits to create fumbles and was really glad to see that."
Senior Leandre Stutzman's 60-yard kickoff return led to sophomore Omar Harrison scoring one of his two touchdowns in the game. His 15-yard touchdown run along with Stutzman's 12-yard touchdown run on the next drive and junior Cole Hollingsworth's extra points gave Franklin-Simpson a 14-0 lead.
Then Warren East's offense turned the ball over on four straight offensive possessions. An interception by senior Riley Brownlee led to sophomore Luke Richardson's 31-yard touchdown pass to Stutzman early in the 2nd Quarter.
Brownlee recovered a fumble from Raiders' senior quarterback Nolan Ford that was forced by Stutzman and senior Connor Rogers recovered a fumble from senior Demontra Pillow led to Richardson with an 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak. Hollingsworth kicked both extra points for a 28-0 lead.
Harrison recovered a fumble from junior K.J. Alexander and on the very next play, Richardson and Stutzman together combined for their second passing touchdown of the game with a 23-yard pass. The 2-point conversion attempt failed for a 34-0 lead.
The Raiders scored on two straight offensive possessions, both on rushing touchdowns by Ford. His 13-yard run before the end of the 1st half and his 5-yard run on their opening drive of the 3rd quarter made the score 34-14 after junior Kobe Kawaii kicked the extra points.
Stutzman crushed any momentum accumulated by Warren East as he returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown, his fourth of the game overall. The extra point by Hollingsworth made the score 41-14.
Warren East's next possession resulted in Ford's third rushing touchdown of the game with a 2-yard run. Kawaii's extra point put the Raiders back to within three scores at 41-21.
Early in the 4th quarter on a drive that started late in the 3rd Quarter, Harrison, thanks to a block by Stutzman, broke free down the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown run, his second of the game.
"Tonight was a good night and couldn't have done it without my teammates," Omar Harrison said. "Leandre's block is what broke it open for me. It is one of the most amazing blocks I've ever seen. Wouldn't have scored without his block."
"Omar (Harrison) is really getting it done. As he gets more experienced, he will be able to do more things," Preston said. "He only played half of the season due to a broken ankle and last year was his first year ever playing football. So he is not very experienced but it is exciting to watch him grow and develop."
With Hollingsworth's extra point, the Wildcats are the number one seed in the district portion of the playoffs with their 48-21 victory over the Raiders.
Franklin-Simpson outgained the Raiders 408-340 in total yards of offense. Leandre Stutzman, who had 104 yards rushing and 54 yards receiving, scored on two receiving touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown. He also had two interceptions and forced two fumbles.
"We had to come out and play aggressive. We knew it was going to be a sloppy game and they wanted to have ball control so we just went for it on defense," Leandre Stutzman said. "Got two forced fumbles that we were able to get and on offense, we had a great game plan and play calling at the right time and it all worked out."
"We all had a big night but Leandre (Stutzman) had a big night but something that maybe people did not see as we went back and watched game film, he forced two fumbles," Preston said. "A dominant performance and to do it on Senior Night made it even more special for him."
Omar Harrison led the team with 132 yards rushing for two touchdowns on 10 carries. Senior Chase Gooch had 82 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Luke Richardson completed both of his passes for touchdowns and also had a rushing touchdown.
"Good district win tonight and we finish undefeated again. Sets us up for at least one and maybe two home games in the playoffs," Luke Richardson said. "We just need to keep working hard every day in practice and just keep getting better. It's exciting to be part of all this. Love playing for this team
Franklin-Simpson's defense forced a season high six turnovers as Nolan Ford was responsible for four turnovers, He rushed for 99 yards for three touchdowns with a fumble and completed seven of his 14 passes for 119 yards with three interceptions.
WE 0 7 14 0 21
F-S 14 20 7 7 48
F-S Omar Harrison 15-yard run (Cole Hollingsworth kick) 7-0
F-S Leandre Stutzman 12-yard run (Hollingsworth kick) 14-0
F-S Luke Richardson 31-yard pass to Stutzman (Hollingsworth kick) 21-0
F-S Richardson 1-yard run (Hollingsworth kick) 28-0
F-S Richardson 23-yard pass to Stutzman (2-point conversion failed) 34-0
WE Nolan Ford 13-yard run (Kobe Kawaii kick) 34-7
WE Ford 5-yard run (Kawaii kick) 34-14
F-S Stutzman 75-yard kickoff return (Hollingsworth kick) 41-14
WE Ford 2-yard run (Kawaii kick) 41-21
F-S Harrison 46-yard run (Hollingsworth kick) 48-21