Franklin Wins Back-to-Back Titles After Comeback at KP

Franklin Football
Franklin senior Luke Davis (6) hauls in a two-point conversion with 2:46 remaining, which lifted the Panthers to a come from behind win at rival King Philip and to a second straight Kelley-Rex title. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WRENTHAM, Mass. – King Philip got the ball back up by seven points with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter of Thursday morning’s holiday matinee at Macktaz Field and went back to work with the ground game that had been nearly unstoppable for most of the game.

After running more than seven minutes off the clock, KP had first down from the Franklin 30 and looked like it was maybe one or two plays away from clinching the title-deciding showdown.

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Rudy Gately (21 carries, 116 yards) was stopped for a loss of three by Emmett Lackey. Quarterback Tommy McLeish took the next snap and went on a sweep around the left side, but Franklin read the play and pried the ball loose. Devine Johnson pounced on it at the 34 to give the visitors a chance with 6:11 on the clock.

Mike Davide (11 carries, 40 yards) broke free for a 13-yard gain into KP territory and Jase Lyons (20-of-27, 232 yards) hit Josh Ribeiro on the sideline. Ribeiro refused to go out of bounds, cutting back infield and eventually gaining 17 to the KP 28. After back-to-back completions to Luke Davis, Lyons kept it himself, looking for contact in the secondary and being brought down at the three. Davide finished the drive to bring the Panthers within one.

Instead of lining up for a Garrett Portesi extra point and potentially playing for overtime, Franklin coach Eian Bain rolled the dice and kept the offense on the field.

“Not for a second,” Bain said later, when asked if he thought about kicking. “We were going for two and then just onside kick it if we have to. We were going for the win right there and then make them have to make a decision too, do they stick with the offense they ran the whole game?”

Lyons dropped back and looked for Davis on a quick out-route a couple yards into the end zone. Davis (nine catches, 153 yards) made the diving grab and put the Panthers up 29-28 with only 2:46 left on the clock. The Franklin defense was able to limit KP to just one first down, sealing a win and a share of its second straight Kelley-Rex division title.

“We just had a good matchup,” Bain said. “We had a play call for both sides and when they adjusted from the empty backfield, we had Luke one-on-one, which is what we wanted.”

Davis was thrilled at his coach’s decision to stick with the offense in that situation. He said, “I was hoping for him to say that. Obviously, KP is a good team and they have their drives, so just to get that extra point was huge. I had full confidence in Jase and the offense to make the play, so it was a great call. Trust coach.”

KP coach Brian Lee rued uncharacteristic turnovers from his team that led to two Franklin touchdowns, including the eventual winner, but also praised Bain for his call to go for two at the end.

“We were just about another first down away from giving (Matthew) Kelley a chance for a field goal and kudos to them,” Lee explained. “Bottom line, we’ve got to hold onto the ball. We turned it over twice. Once on an exchange – points, and down here – points.”

He added, “The guts on coach to go for two. That’s a great call. I love that stuff, going for that win here. It shows that program is in good hands.”

Franklin came into Thanksgiving an underdog against KP, which is heading back to its fifth Div. 2 Super Bowl in six seasons, but the Panthers were riding the confidence of beating the Warriors last year (ending a decade without a win in this series) and got off to a roaring start. On third and five, Lyons went deep down the sideline to Davis, who hauled in the pass then cut back towards the hash mark and raced past a pair of defenders for a 69-yard TD.

“He does everything,” Bain said about Davis. “He’s going to be impossible to replace. I don’t think the kid ever gets tired, I don’t think he ever doesn’t smile, he always goes and he does it right way too.”

Davis noted, “Being on that team last year, we got that feeling of success. We’ve been working at it all year, had KP in the back of the mind all year until it was finally Thanksgiving week. Having that success last year, helped us know what it meant and know what the feeling is to win this game.”

KP responded like it usually does, but lining up behind its big offensive line and running right at the heart of the defense. On their first drive of the day, KP marched 64 yards on nine plays, all of them runs between the tackles. Gately had five carries on the drive, including a 16-yard rush inside the Franklin 10. William Astorino (14 carries, 109 yards) punched it from the two to tie it.

Kyle Abbott and Christopher Sesay each sacked Lyons to end Franklin’s next possession. KP got the ball back and went 57 yards on eight plays, again all runs right up the middle, to take the lead. Astorino and Gately split the carries on the drive, with Astorino finding the end zone on a 12-yard run. Kelley’s extra point made it 14-7.

Franklin drove into KP territory, but David Constantine’s interception ended the drive at the Warriors 12. On third and 17, a fumbled hand-off was recovered by Jack Nutter to give the Panthers the ball at the 18. The Panthers took advantage, as Lyons recovered from being sacked twice (by Carson Meier and Astorino) to hit Davis for a six-yard score, tying the game with 46 seconds left in the half.

Coming out of the locker room, the Warriors took control. A seven-play, 65-yard drive kicked things off. Abott broke free for 16 yards into Franklin’s half of the field and then Astorino ran over defenders on a 32-yard rush down to the 13. Four plays later, Astorino got his third score of the day from two yards out.

The KP defense stepped up to stop Franklin. Gately was playing centerfield and he read a deep ball to Davis on the sideline, coming across to pick it off and return it down to the Panthers 26. On second down, McLeish went play-action and hit Astorino in the right flat. The running back did the rest, weaving his way to the end zone for a 28-14 lead.

Momentum was swinging back-and-forth and this time it was Franklin’s turn to steal it back. The Panthers went 69 yards in nine plays to get back into the game. A pass interference call got the ball to the 27. After and eight-yard pass to Derek Dubriske (five catches, 32 yards), Lyons fired a strike to Davis, who went up and over the defensive back to pull in the 19-yard score.

Killing the clock and killing off the game is usually KP’s forte, but the Panthers found a way to force the turnover and give themselves one last chance to retain the Kelley-Rex crown. When they found the end zone, there was no question of going for the tie, only for the win.

Bain said of the comeback that earned Franklin (7-3) its first back-to-back league titles since 1971, “King Philip makes you play a certain way. You’ve got to get a little grimy, you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and you’ve got to bang with them. Today we got hit in the mouth plenty, there were any number of times where we could’ve said, ‘You know what, we had a good run,’ but these guys never gave up.”

King Philip (9-2) will play Catholic Memorial in the D2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night at 8:00. It is a rematch of last year’s title game, but Lee was adamant that the upcoming final had no impact on his team’s play on Thursday.

“Up 14, that’s something where you feel like you should be able to control it and we just couldn’t,” Lee said. “No. 6 (Davis) is a dude and the quarterback gets the ball out on time and that puts you under pressure. They kept making plays, kept fighting, and kept believing and that’s a hard thing to combat.”

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Franklin Holds On In Last Minute, Earns Win At North

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Luke Davis caught a first half touchdown, helping Franklin pull out its first win at North Attleboro since 1992. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – When Cole Sidwell intercepted a pass inside his own 30 with 36 seconds remaining, the Franklin bench exploded onto the field assuming that the victory was sealed. But, two penalty flags sat on the Community Field grass and, after a lengthy discussion between the officials, off-setting penalties meant that North Attleboro would have one last chance.

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Facing fourth and 13 from the Franklin 49, North quarterback Chase Frisoli dropped back one more time and fired a deep ball to Jovany Rivera down the right sideline. The North receiver had a step on the corner, but he just wasn’t able to haul in the pass.

After a giant exhale, the Franklin sideline exploded into life again, knowing that all it would take was one kneel down and the win was theirs. The Panthers survived Friday’s league opener 21-20, earning their first win at North since 1992.

“It’s two top 10 teams, Franklin coach Eain Bain said. “I don’t care if we won by half a point, as long as we get out of here with a win. We knew coming in here there would be adversity tonight, fortunately we took advantage of some things in the first half. As a team effort, I thought it was a great win.”

“We were there,” North coach Mike Strachan. “We had a good look at it on fourth and it didn’t go our way. I said at the beginning of the game it was going to be penalties and turnovers and we didn’t win that battle. At the end of the day, in a one-point game, that is what it is. You can’t turn the ball over like we did.”

North came into its league and home opener off a bye week, but the momentum of the opening two wins seemed to carry over to the first drive of the game. Frisoli (13-of-26 for 146 yards) converted third and eight with a 14-yard pass to Rivera (six catches, 89 yards) and then took off on a 20-yard keeper into Franklin territory. Nathan Shultz took a toss to the left side, broke a tackle, and streaked down the sideline for a 49-yard score.

It wasn’t the ideal start for a Franklin defense that was coming off a tough loss to Duxbury, but the Panthers turned things around after that tough first three minutes. Franklin sacked Frisoli seven times, including four in the first half, and forced a pair of red zone turnovers.

Bain explained, “When you can get pressure with your front then you can start getting creative using our second level guys to try and find a matchup, find something in protection we can go after. When we can do that effectively, it can cover up some mistakes we do on the back end.”

After Jack Nutter stuffed Shultz for a loss of seven. Franklin got great field position for its second possession, starting at its own 49, but a penalty and a Kaiden Leary sack forced third and 16. Jase Lyons was able to hit Derek Dubriske for 23 and the first down. Three plays later, the same combo connected again, this time for a 24-yard touchdown on the left sideline to tie the game.

The defense kept coming after the North quarterback. Emmett Lackey and Julian Rampino both sacked Frisoli and on third down Nick Quintina got into the backfield and batted down a pass.

Franklin again had great starting field position. A 17-yard completion to Luke Davis (four catches, 57 yards) moved the ball into North territory. Following a holding call, Lyons (12-of-17, 188 yards), who completed his first seven throws, found Dubriske (four receptions, 66 yards) for 18 and another first down. On the next play, Davis got the ball on an underneath out route, threw a head fake to lose the closest North defender, and raced down the sideline for 31 yards and a 14-7 lead.

North’s offense was finally able to get things moving late in the second quarter. Frisoli hit Jack Munley on a drag route across the middle for 13 down to the Franklin 38. A 15-yard penalty for too many men moved North even closer. On third and 10, Greg Berthiaume broke through the line for a first down run, but as he pushed for extra yards the ball popped loose and Bobby Padula recovered for the Panthers.

It was a big missed opportunity to get right back into the game. Garrett Portesi’s punt pinned North back inside its own 10. Jay Gulla sacked Frisoli on second down and North was forced into another punt that was returned to the 30. Franklin needed only one play to double its lead. Lyons threw one up for Grayson Hunter at the goal line and the 6-foot-4 tight end out-jumped a pair of North defenders, pulling in the 30-yard score.

North looked ready to mount an immediate comeback when it got into the red zone on its first third-quarter drive, but Sidwell was able to intercept Frisoli’s pass at the goal line and keep the hosts off the board.

“They’re very quick,” Strachan said of the Franklin defense. “They did some good things up front, they did a lot more stunting this week than we saw last week. They’re physical. They came to play. They had a chip on their shoulder from last week and it showed.”

After the defense did its job and held the Panthers to a three-and-out, North got the ball back at the Franklin 31. Facing fourth and five, Frisoli was able to hook up with Rivera for six yards to keep things moving. Berthiaume was given the ball on three straight carries, all of seven yards, including the final one that found the end zone to make it 21-14 at the end of three.

North got the ball back at its own 21 with 8:13 remaining and marched 79 yards in 13 plays, taking up six minutes. Again, Frisoli found Rivera for a fourth down conversion to keep things alive and then hit him again for 25 yards to the Franklin nine. After an eight-yard pass to Aidan Conrad, Frisoli punched it in with a one-yard sneak.

The hosts were an extra point away from tying the game with 2:16 to go, but a low snap led to confusion and an attempted pass that Franklin was able to snuff out to preserve a one-point lead.

It came down to one last play to decide which team would get off to a winning start in the Kelley-Rex, and it was the defending champion Panthers that left the happier team on Friday.

“Tell me the easy game in the Hockomock,” said Bain. “We’re just going to take it one game at a time. Records don’t really matter, it’s how you come to play that night.”

Strachan added, “The Kelley-Rex is like the Big Ten, there’s no easy week. It’s something that we’ve got to put this behind us as quick as we can and get ready for Milford.”

Franklin (3-1) will be back on the road again next week to face Taunton (3-1). North Attleboro (2-1) will be back on the road to visit unbeaten Milford (4-0).

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