It was an outstanding night to host Franklin’s homecoming last Friday night. Not only did Franklin fans get to see their team thwart another conference foe, they also got to witness Senior Ansley Taylor be crowned homecoming queen, with Sophomore Nina Astling being named runner-up.
The game was over in the first quarter and the Knights of North Henderson knew it. It was a strange game for sure, but the Panthers were impressive in their 64-27 walloping of North Henderson. The Panthers improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in conference play, and are off to their best start since 2006.
“I’ve never been in a game like that before,” said Head Coach Josh Brooks. “I have definitely been on the receiving end of a few blowouts, but nothing quite like that. It was just a snowball effect. Once we got the momentum, we never let up. I really couldn’t believe how it happened. I mean, there is seven minutes to go in the first quarter and it’s a battle. The next thing you know, we’re up 50-0.”
It was a record breaking night for the Panthers, in more ways than one. Brooks broke Franklin High’s all time wins record with his 48th career victory. Kicker Eric Olvera tied the school record with eight successful extra point attempts and Panthers running back Nathan Raby broke the school record with his 98-yard kickoff return. And that’s not all.
The Panthers scored 50 points in the first half, which broke the previous record of 49. Collectively, Franklin broke a state record by returning three kickoff returns for touchdowns. The stat is even more unbelievable considering Franklin has not returned a kickoff all the way for a touchdown in 11 years prior to the North Henderson game.
North Henderson looked like they were ready to play, scoring on an 80-yard pass on their first possession. The TD was called back as a result of an illegal procedure penalty, a key infraction that killed their early momentum. To keep their drive alive, the Knights attempted a fake punt, but the Panthers sniffed it out and forced a turnover on downs to get the ball at the Knights 40 yard-line.
From there, it was all about the Panthers offense. Parrish Young started the drive off with a six-yard run, followed by a Nathan Raby sweep that put the Panthers in redzone territory. Coach Brooks decided to finish the drive off with the Young set, which delivered Franklin’s first score of the game when Parrish Young stiff armed a Knight defender to take it into the end-zone from 15 yards out.
Jacob Young finished the game with 138 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while Nathan Raby returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Raby’s first return came after a Panther’s safety, forcing the Knights to punt the ball to the speedster, who took it 73 yards to the house. His second kickoff return came early in the second half, before the Panthers could take their first possession of the third quarter. Raby proceeded to embarrass the Knights special teams unit for the second time by taking it 98 yards for another touchdown, giving the Panthers 56 points.
Panthers wide-out Jeb Brewer decided to get in on the action late in the third quarter, returning a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to put the nail in the coffin.
The Panthers are primed for a conference showdown with East Henderson this Friday night, a game that will likely determine who will win the WNCAC championship. East Henderson is undefeated in conference play, coming off of a 37-7 win against Smoky Mountain last week.
“We haven’t played a conference team that is better than East Henderson,” said Brooks. “They have a great backfield and quarterback, and they probably have one of the best receivers we will see all year. We just have to prevent the big play. Teams have really struggled moving the ball against us all season, but we have given up some big plays. We can’t do that against East Henderson. We have to keep them from getting to the corners, because they are fast.”
The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. at East Henderson High School.
For more on Coach Josh Brooks’ record win, click here.