The Franklin-Simpson Wildcats trailed at halftime to the South Warren Spartans by seven points. But, they couldn't score points in the second half that led to a 41-14 loss last Friday night at the South Warren Athletic Complex.
The Wildcats fall to 0-3 on the season as this is the first time they have lost three games in a row since head coach Doug Preston's first season as head coach in 2012.
"The kids played hard and they have not played hard yet this year," Wildcats head coach Doug Preston said. "We talked about that after the game and we need to put that behind us, move forward, learn from this and get ready for the next one."
"Every year, they do a good job of game planning for us," Spartans head coach Brandon Smith said. "They know what we like to do and they use it against us. I really don't know if we really figured it out but the guys started making plays. They guys were extremely sharp on offense in the first half but we have got to clean up the penalties. We are not going to survive if we keep playing like that with penalties happening at the inopportune time."
In the first half, Franklin-Simpson stood toe-to-toe with South Warren like an old school 15-round heavyweight-boxing prizefight.
The Wildcats took their opening possession 88 yards in eight plays for the first touchdown of the game. Two plays after Gavin Finch's 53-yard run, sophomore quarterback Luke Richardson ran two yards for the score. With junior Cole Hollingsworth's extra point, the Wildcats led 7-0. It's the first time that they have led in any of the three games they have played at South Warren.
"Couldn't have had a better start to the football game," Preston said. "It was pivotal that we came out to a fast start. Gavin (Finch) has been emerging over the last couple of seasons and that gives him confidence and us with confidence in him as a runner. That gives us the ability to give Leandre (Stutzman) some rest and that is huge and a big plus for everybody."
The Spartans quickly responded as sophomore Caden Veltkamp threw a 57-yard touchdown pass and run to sophomore Mason Willingham. Sophomore Elder Dervisevic provided the extra point that tied the game at 7-7.
Franklin-Simpson responded with their second consecutive touchdown of the game as they drove 80 yards in seven plays. Richardson completed a 38-yard pass and run to senior Leandre Stutzman that quickly flipped the field position. Two plays later, senior Tedric Partinger ran for a 21-yard touchdown for his first of the season. The extra point by Hollingsworth gave the Wildcats' the lead once again, 14-7.
South Warren countered back with their second game-tying touchdown. They drove 80 yards in seven plays that carried over into the second quarter. On the very first play of the quarter, sophomore Kobe Martin ran for a 48-yard touchdown. Derisevic's extra point tied the game at 14-14.
The Spartans' defense forced the Wildcats and with a great return to the Wildcats' 20-yard line. Five plays later, they took the lead with Veltkamp's 15-yard touchdown pass to junior Jason Putnam. The extra point by Derisevic made the score 21-14.
After Franklin-Simpson's punt, South Warren's offense started on their own 10-yard line. They marched 90 yards down the field in 14 plays just before the end of the first half. Veltkamp completed nine of his 11 passes on the drive with Martin finishing off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Derisevic's extra point made the score 28-14 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Spartans defense forced the Wildcats into committing a turnover. Starting on their own 10-yard line, Veltkamp threw a 90-yard touchdown pass and run to sophomore Avrin Bell. Derisevic kicked the extra point for a 35-14 lead.
Later in the quarter, South Warren forced Franklin-Simpson's offense to a turnover on downs. Starting on their own 23-yard line, they marched down the field with Martin running the football for 22 yards on three carries and Veltkamp completed three of his four passes for 52 yards with sophomore Luke Burton finishing off the drive with an 1-yard touchdown run that made the final score 41-14.
"The first half was like a heavyweight fight with the offenses going back and forth and scoring," Preston said. "What I told the kids was that is the kind of team you will have to beat to win the whole thing this year. We have to get to the point sometime in the season where we can play like that for four quarters and that is a lot of a mental thing but we will see how this goes the rest of the season."
"This was definitely a good test for our team," Smith said. "They are a physical team and you see that every year. You just hold your breath and you hope you don't have anybody that gets injured long term but it is a gauge for us."
South Warren outgained Franklin-Simpson, 497-273, in total yards of offense. The Wildcats gained 143 yards rushing with Gavin Finch rushing for 59 yards and Tedric Partinger had 52 yards rushing with a touchdown.
Luke Richardson completed five of his 15 passes for 131 yards with two interceptions. Leandre Stutzman had two receptions for 92 yards with sophomore Omar Harrison also having two receptions for 33 yards.
Caden Veltkamp completed 20 of his 26 passes for 348 yards for three touchdowns. Avrin Bell had five receptions for 129 yards for a touchdown. Mason Willingham had three receptions for 80 yards for a touchdown and Jason Putnam had two receptions for 34 yards for a touchdown. Kobe Martin rushed for 110 yards on 18 carries for two touchdowns.
"Caden (Veltkamp) looked really sharp in practice and I had a feeling that he was going to have a good game," Smith said. "I am also really proud of these young receivers. They needed a game like this to give them confidence. One of the criticisms we have given them is that they are not doing anything after the catch and I thought tonight, they did a much better job with that."
F-S 14 0 0 0 14
SW 7 21 13 0 41
F-S Luke Richardson 2-yard run (Cole Hollingsworth kick) 7-0
SW Caden Veltkamp 57-yard pass to mason Willingham (Elder Derisevic kick) 7-7
F-S Tedric Partinger 21-yard run (Hollingsworth kick) 14-7
SW Kobe Martin 48-yard run (Derisevic kick) 14-14
SW Veltkamp 15-yard pass to Jason Putnam (Derisevic kick) 21-14
SW Martin 2-yard run (Derisevic kick) 28-14
SW Veltkamp 90-yard pass to Avrin Bell (Derisevic kick) 35-14
SW Luke Burton 1-yard run (2-point conversion failed) 41-14