Franklin’s varsity football team is perfect this season, winning 11 consecutive games to earn a number one seed in the state playoffs. This is the first time Franklin has been a number one seed in recent memory, and the Panthers are more than deserving of the honor. “We’ve never been a number one seed since I’ve been at Franklin,” said head coach Josh Brooks. “I know we have been as high as a two seed, but never a one. I think it shows that we have played very good football this year and I hope we can continue to do that in November.”
The team is off to its best start in school history, and with a roster full of experience and proven talent, the Panthers are sure to make some noise in the tournament. “When you look at the season schedule you know you are promised 11 games,” said Brooks. “Now our guys know this is a different season, and I think they will be ready for it. I don’t think our team is ready to quit playing football right now. They want to keep playing.”
Due to their consistency thus far, the Panthers will have home field advantage throughout the state playoffs. It is a well documented fact that visiting teams find it difficult to play in the Panther Pit, and Hunter Huss will learn the hard way about the benefits of Franklin’s home field advantage when they travel 3 hours from Gaston County to take on the Panthers this Friday night. “I think attaining home field advantage gives us a much better chance to advance,” said head coach Josh Brooks. “We have played very well at home in the past, especially this season.”
Hunter Huss is a very young team, but their roster is equipped with speed and raw athleticism. “This is a dangerous game for us,” commented Brooks. “They have struggled of late, but they are a capable team.”
To say that the Huskies of Hunter Huss have struggled late in the season is a major understatement. They have lost their past six games, including a 0-52 debacle to Ashbrook last Friday night. Their offense relies predominately on a 1-back zone and isolation formations. They also mix in the shotgun. The Huskie defense lines up in the 4-3 formation, so the Panthers should not be caught off guard by anything Hunter Huss throws at them. “This is definitely a game we should win,” stated Brooks. “But we do have to come out play and I think we will. We have all season long.”
A team should never look ahead when it comes to the playoffs, but the Panthers’ playoff hopes look bright. If Franklin plays like they have all year, it will likely set up a rematch between East Henderson in the second round next Friday night. The Panthers defeated East Henderson 28-21 earlier this season at East Flat Rock, in a game that ultimately decided the WNCAC season championship. East Henderson eliminated Franklin in the state playoffs last season, so the match-up should give the Panthers some extra motivation.
Franklin’s post-season outlook is looking bright, as the Panthers are playing their best football right now. Defensively, play-off opponents will find it challenging to move the ball against the Panthers. They have all year long, in fact, Franklin has not surrendered a rushing touchdown since the Smoky Mountain game, when the Mustangs scored late in the fourth quarter against the Panthers’ less experienced players. “If teams try to run the ball right at us then I like our chances,” commented Brooks.
In analyzing the playoff brackets, it is likely that Franklin will host Burns, a number two seed out of Cleveland County with a 10-1 season record, in the sectional finals. Should Franklin do what is expected and win their next two games, it will set-up what should be a great contest against Burns, a team that has won 21 games the past two seasons. Franklin fans should be optimistic.