Oct 25, 2018
The Opening Kick
Saturday afternoon marks the final time the Franklin football team hits the road in the regular season, when they head north to take on the Manchester Spartans.
Last Time Out
The Grizzlies returned to action at home last weekend, taking on the Earlham Quakers in Franklin's lone home game of October. The Grizzlies controlled the game from the opening kick, scoring touchdowns on four of their first 12 plays to open up a sizeable lead on their way to a 64-20 win.
It was a record-setting day for the Grizzly offense, as Franklin racked up a single-game record 789 yards against the Quaker defense. Braden Smith threw for 384 yards on 12 completions and the Franklin ground game accumulted for 360 total yards in victory.
A complete recap is available on page 12 of the game notes.
Guided by third-year head coach Nate Jensen, the Spartans enter this weekend's contest with a 3-3 mark in conference play following last weekend's loss at Hanover.
The Spartans boast one of the top rushing attacks in the league, led by junior tailback Donovan Henderson. Henderson leads the league with 934 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns on 190 carries, and his 116.8 yards per game sits second in the league behind Hanover's Shawn Coane. The Spartans rank third in the league with 180.4 yards per game on the ground, sitting behind league leaders Hanover and Franklin.
The passing game is led by sophomore signal caller Bryce Tomasi. Tomasi is completing 48.3 percent of his passes coming into Saturday's game, throwing for nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year. Freshman Harrington Greer has been his top target this year, catching 26 passes for 352 yards and a team-high six touchdowns. Keyounis Woods' 21.4 yards per catch is tops on the team and a total of 11 different Spartans have hauled in at least one pass this year.
On defense, junior linebacker Justin Thomas leads the team with 58 tackles on the year, and his six sacks leads the team and has him tied for third in the conference with Bluffton's Isaac Zickafoose. Senior safety Dillon Nelson has been a key cog in patrolling the middle of the field, ranking second on the Spartans with 44 tackles while picking off a league-leading five passes. Fellow safety Nick Tillman has wrapped up 40 tackles this year to go with three INTs of his own.
Despite losing nine starters on the offensive side of the ball prior to the 2018 season, the Franklin offense finds itself in a familiar spot at the top of Division III in total offense. The Grizzlies' 608.4 yards per game ranks first in the nation with their 370.3 passing yards per game sitting second in the land.
The always-potent Franklin air attack has been powered by the trio of Braden Smith, Brad Bonomini and Ben Fleet this year, and each player sits near the top of the conference rankings coming into this week. Smith's 358.3 yards per game through the air is tops in the conference and his 25 touchdown passes ranks second in the league. Bonomini tops all receivers with 127.3 yards per game with Fleet ranking fourth at 74.1 yards per contest.
Ground and Pound
Franklin's ground game has been just as devastating as thier passing attack, ranking first in the HCAC and 30th in Division III with 238.1 yards per contest. Jacob Earl ranks third in the league in rushing yards (799) and yards per game (114.1) with both marks in the top-30 nationally. Last Saturday, the Grizzlies racked up 360 yard on the ground, with seven different ball carriers getting in on the action.
HCAC Player of the Week
Freshman Jake Campbell collected HCAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors on Monday after averaging 56 yards per kickoff against Earlham. He joined wideout Ben Fleet, running back Jacob Earl and linebacker Austin Fleming as Grizzlies that have earned one of the league's weekly awards in each of the last four weeks.
A Collective Effort
On defense,four different Grizzlies have already reached the 20-tackle mark. Fleming tops the squad with 51 tackles,30 coming in the solo variety. Brayton Shannon (33), Logan Hale (30) and David Masayile (30) slot in behind him as the team's top stoppers this year.
Picking Their Spots
Six different Grizzlies come into this weekend with interceptions, all of whom picked off their first career passes at some point this year. Masayile and Alex Frey lead the team with two INTs each, followed by one from Fleming, Evan Stambaugh, Rob Witham and Dyllan Shelley.
Since the 2007 season, the Grizzlies have been dominant against the rest of the HCAC, going 91-5 over that span while claiming 10 of the last 11 outright conference championships.
Around the HCAC
Conference play continues this week with four games taking place around the league. Earlham is the lone team on a bye in week eight. The other three games of the week are as follows:
Rose-Hulman at Defiance, 1:30 p.m.
Mount St. Joseph at Hanover, 1:30 p.m.
Bluffton at Anderson, 1:30 p.m.
Follow the Action Live
Live video and stats will be provided by the Manchester University athletic department. In-game updates will be provided on Twitter by following @FCGrizAthletics.