Dan Finnerty – Sports Writer
After two wins on the road to start the season, Franklin High School (FHS)
lost its first home game in overtime to the Swain County High School (SCHS) Maroon Devils last Friday in the Panther Pit. While steady rain was not forecasted, nearly the entire second half was played in a downpour. In addition to the challenging conditions, FHS lost its star tailback/linebacker Ty Handley (#15) before halftime to a nagging shoulder injury.
With Handley out, backs Daniel Ensley (#3) and Brayden Watts (#14) did their best to help secure another win for the Panthers. However, with the adverse playing conditions came turnovers – four total; two for FHS and two for SCHS.
After back and forth action in the first quarter that included a fumble
committed by each team, plus a turnover on downs by the Maroon Devils, FHS had SCHS at 4th and 18 to start the second quarter after a sack on third down by Ensley. Instead of punting, Swain went for it and quarterback Gabe Lillard connected with running back Joshua Collins for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. FHS was fortunate at half time to only be down one score as SCHS began every first half possession in Panther territory.
At 9:02 in the third quarter, FHS finally broke through and tied the game on a 10-yard touchdown run by Watts and extra point by kicker Daniel Riddle (#17). That would be the last scoring in regulation due to rain and good defense played by both teams. Overtime started with FHS having first possession at the 10-yard line, going in. After three downs the team had to settle for a field goal from Riddle for a brief 10-7 lead. On SCHS’s first play, a sweep around the right side resulted in a touchdown and six points for a final score of 13-10, Maroon Devils.
FHS Head Coach Josh Brooks pointed out that, “we missed some major opportunities on offense.” The Panthers had some short field opportunities in the second half of the game but prior to the overtime field goal were unable to score. Coach Brooks expressed disappointment in Handley’s ongoing shoulder woes but also said, “we have to do our part to make sure he is 100 percent healthy before he returns.”
With a week off before playing their next game, which is on the road, Brooks expressed hope that the team will not only be healthy but will also take something positive away from a tough loss.
According to the head coach, “…the old saying is you will get a lot better after your first loss. I’ll look forward to seeing how our team responds.”
Franklin’s next game is September 16, at East Henderson High School (Eagles), which stands at 1-2 for the season.