FRANKLIN, Ind. – For the ninth time in the last 11 seasons, the Franklin College football team has laid claim to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) football championship.
Playing in front of the Franklin faithful for the final time in the regular season, the Grizzlies (7-2, 7-0 HCAC) re-claimed their spot as the undisputed conference champions with a 63-17 win over Anderson (1-8, 1-6 HCAC) on senior day.
One week after setting the program record for touchdown passes, senior quarterback Chase Burton became the program's all-time leader in passing yards on Saturday afternoon. The Corydon, Ind.-native went 28-for-38 for 393 yards and four scores, surpassing Jonny West's previous record of 10,653 yards in the process.
"It was great to see our everyone get in the game and have some fun today." Head coach Mike Leonard said after the game. "Everyone was getting behind everyone that stepped on the field and cheering for them today and that was great for our team. We're happy to have clinched a playoff berth and secured another conference title but we know our work isn't done yet."
"It means a lot being able to clinch the conference championship but we know we have to keep going," Senior running back Jimmy Phillips added. "We have the Victory Bell coming up next week and then playoffs after that. This one feels good but we know there's still a lot of football left to be played."
The two teams traded turnovers in the opening minute of the game, with Franklin fumbling the opening kickoff and Ryan Conner picking off a Blake Levy pass on the Ravens' first possession. Franklin would score on their first play from scrimmage when Burton connected with Deontez Alexander on a 47-yard score just 1:13 into the game.
Franklin added to their lead in the second with a Jordan Brown two-yard TD run and a 31-yard pass from Burton to Alexander that gave the Grizzlies a commanding 35-3 lead at the intermission.
Brown added another scoring run on the Grizzlies' first drive of the third quarter. Tyrone Thomas III followed that up with a 43-yard pick-six and Zach Frizzell hauled in a 16-yard TD pass from Burton late in the third to make it 56-3 after three. Kole Stogner capped the scoring for the Grizzlies with a nine-yard TD run in the fourth.
Once again, the Franklin offense was firing on all cylinders Saturday, racking up 659 yards of total offense on the day. Spencer Fox was a perfect 6-for-6 through the air in relief of Burton while Brown led all players with 98 yards on 16 carries.
Alexander finished with a team-high five catches for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns, giving him a Division III leading 16 scores on the year. A total of 17 Grizzlies recorded at least one reception on the afternoon.
Defensively, the Grizzlies were led by Grant Bryan's five tackles, three hurries and one sack. Jay McClain finished with four stops and four pass break-ups. Thomas, Conner and Trace Rooks accounted for Franklin's three takeaways with interceptions.
With their spot in the playoffs locked up, the Grizzlies now turn their attention to the 87th Victory Bell Classic next Saturday (Nov. 11) against Hanover College. Kickoff from C. Wayne Perry Field at Alumni Stadium in Hanover, Ind. is set for 1:30 p.m.