The Panthers did not play around with the visiting Black Bears of Pisgah last Friday night at the Panther Pit, putting away the preseason conference favorite early in the first half. Franklin scored on their first four possessions of the game to take a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back. Nathan Raby had a huge game for the Panthers, rushing 18 times for 204 yards and three touchdowns.
Franklin’s defense was outstanding yet again, holding Pisgah to just 170 total yards on offense. The majority of their yards were attained late in the game against Franklin’s younger players. With the win, the Panthers improve to 6-0 on the season and 2-0 in conference play.
Franklin’s offense continues to flourish behind a powerful running game, as the Panthers gained 470 total offensive yards and 376 yards on the ground against Pisgah. “I was happy with how we came out and performed,” said Head Coach Josh Brooks, who is now one win away from tying Fred Goldsmith’s all time wins record. “We came out ready to play and hit the ground running. Pisgah has struggled this year, but we did not take them lightly. We were ready to play, and that’s all you can really ask for.”
Nathan Raby was prolific, racing pass Pisgah defenders like they were statues for several big plays. “Nathan had a breakout game for us,” said Coach Brooks. “I knew coming into the game that he would probably be the fastest player on the field, and that fact was obvious as the game progressed. He ran hard and was able to break loose a number of times for big plays. Defenses are so used to trying to stop the Young brothers, who are so physical and come right at you, whereas Nathan has a lot of speed. He compliments our backfield very well and I was proud of what he was able to do Friday night.”
Austin Gibson was perfect through the air, completing six of six passes for 83 yards, including one 40 yard touchdown pass to wideout Jeb Brewer late in the first quarter that gave Franklin a 14-0 lead. Gibson also rushed four times for 13 yards, while Jeb Brewer finished the game with four receptions for 63 yards and one touchdown.
The Young brothers were stellar once again, scoring one touchdown a piece and combining for 163 yards on 19 carries. Franklin’s Tyler Rodgers intercepted a McKinley Brown pass to set up the Panthers first score of the game, which came on a 21 yard scamper from Parrish Young. Jacob Young got in on the action late in the first half, scoring from one yard out to put the Panthers up 28-0. Not to be outdone, Jeremiah Young went untouched into the end zone from 20 yards out early in the third quarter, making it 35 unanswered Franklin points.
It’s the same story for the Panthers at the line of scrimmage, as Franklin manhandled Pisgah’s defensive front. Franklin’s Thomas Evans, Jacob Davis, Jakob Sayer, Gavin Hopkins, Hunter Collins, Jay Hartbarger, and Chanz Fritz make up Franklin’s offensive line. The unit is a big factor in the team’s early season success, paving the way for Franklin’s tailbacks and passing game.
The game got very sloppy in the second half. Franklin was penalized 10 times for 110 yards, which is concerning considering the Panthers schedule will get tougher in the upcoming weeks. “I did not like how we lost focus in the second half. I felt like we got too complacent, made some really stupid penalties that hurt us,” said coach Brooks. Despite the errors, the Panthers never really let the Black Bears get close.
Franklin will travel to Sylva next week to take on archrival Smoky Mountain, a team that has vastly improved throughout this season. “I really commend their coach for what he has done with that team,” commented Brooks about Smoky Mountain’s football team. “They are the best they have been in three years. They won last weekend and nearly beat Tuscola earlier in the season. They blitz a lot and are very disciplined, so I think we will see a really good Smoky Mountain team.”
The Panthers hope to give head coach Josh Brooks a record tying 47th win at his alma mater and continue their winning ways against the Mustangs of Smoky Mountain. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Smoky Mountain High School.
Pictures provided by Ruby Peoples