The Franklin Panthers varsity football team escaped with a narrow victory last Friday night, taking down the neighboring Maroon Devils of Swain County 14-6. Jacob Young scored the Panthers only two touchdowns of the game in what was a physically grinding contest between the two rivals. The win gives the Panthers their sixth straight victory over the 1A powerhouse, in a series historically dominated by Swain.
“Swain was a good challenge for us, on both sides of the ball. They play as hard as anyone, so we were not surprised about their ability to hang around,” said Panthers Head Coach Josh Brooks. “We just knew we had to keep playing, and it was a good struggle at the line of scrimmage. But eventually we we were able to take control.”
The Maroon Devils entered the Panther Pit ranked number one in the state 1A division and an undefeated 3-0 record. The Panthers were also fighting to stay unbeaten, coming off of a big win against T.C. Roberson on September 2. It was the second consecutive week Franklin has taken on an undefeated foe.
Franklin’s offense looked poised from the outset, capitalizing on a Swain personal foul penalty to score on their first possession of the game. Jacob Young punched it in from the goal line, followed by a successful field goal made by Eric Olvera to give the Panthers a quick 7-0 lead. Afterwards, it was a back and forth trench battle with neither team able to do anything consistently on offense. Both teams were penalized quite frequently, eroding what little progress they could mount offensively.
Quarterback Austin Gibson completed five of eight passes for 33 yards with one interception, but the Panthers continued to rely heavily on their ground game instead of airing it out down-field. There was nothing tricky or complex about Franklin’s offensive scheme. It involved Franklin utilizing three tailbacks to run right at the Maroon Devils for four consecutive quarters. The offensive line fought hard for 36 minutes to give their running backs some open space, and Franklin’s backfield took advantage of any hole they could find.
Even when the Panthers were struggling to convert first downs in the second and third quarters, they did not shy away from the running attack and continued to pound the ball right at Swain’s defensive front. While Swain held their own against the Panthers throughout much of the night, Franklin’s ground attack was simply too much for the Maroon Devils to handle in the end. Jacob Young’s second touchdown came on the first possession of the fourth quarter, solidifying Franklin’s second home win of the season.
Parrish Young rushed for 62 yards on 14 carries, while his twin brother Jacob Young pitched in 52 yards on 15 carries to go along with his two touchdowns. Nathan Raby also contributed to the Panthers’ rushing attack, carrying 13 times for 44 yards. Sophomore Marquell Manning, the Panthers leading rusher, did not play due to a knee injury.
Once again, Franklin’s defense was impressive, holding Swain to 115 total yards. Swain’s offense was stagnant at best, accumulating just 24 yards on 27 carries. Swain was able to score on a 31-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter, but Franklin’s Thomas Evans blocked the extra point attempt to give the Panthers a one point lead going into half-time. The long touchdown pass was all Swain could muster against Franklin’s defense, as the Panthers smothered Swain’s running game and pressured quarterback Colby Hyatt all night, sacking him seven times. “We blitzed more in the second half and it worked to our advantage. Our pressure really got to them. At one point, all they could do was hold our players to keep us from getting to their quarterback,” said Coach Brooks.
Freshman Jeremiah Young led the Panthers defense with eight tackles and two sacks. “Jeremiah has really came through for us so far this season. He has had a major impact for us on defense and special teams, and I hope he can continue to make big plays for us,” said Coach Brooks. Thomas Evans and Jakob Sayer each had two sacks on the night and a combined nine tackles, while Jacob Young chipped in six tackles, demonstrating his ability to play on both sides of the ball.