Posted: Nov 01, 2018
The Opening Kick
Saturday afternoon sees the Franklin football team return to action at Faught Stadium, when they welcome the Bluffton Beavers for the first of two straight home games to close out the regular season.
Last Time Out
Franklin closed out their regular season road slate last weekend, rolling to an 45-24 win over Manchester at Burt Field. As they had done in all seven games prior to last Saturday, the Grizzlies opened the scoring and never let go of the lead, putting the game out of reach with a touchdown to close the first half and one to open the second half.
The Grizzlies finished the afternoon with 551 yards of total offense, 309 coming via the right arm of quarterback Braden Smith. Brad Bonomini hauled in seven passes for 164 yards and three first half touchdowns and Jacob Earl totaled 90 yards rushing on 18 carries.
A complete recap is available on page 12 of the game notes.
In his first year as head coach following four as offensive coordinator, Bluffton head coach Aaron Kreps has the Beavers sitting at 2-4 in conference play after last week's shutout win over Anderson.
Sophomore Plummie Gardner will lead the Beaver offense on Saturday afternoon. A starter in seven games this year, Plummer has thrown for 932 yards and completed 46.6 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and a 100.7 passer efficiency rating. Senior Lucas Espitia and junior Adam Duncan have been the Beavers' go-to targets this year. Espitia has caught a team-high 21 passes for 330 yards while Duncan has hauled in 20 balls for a team-high 364 yards. Both players have also caught four touchdowns.
Drake Campbell leads the Bluffton run game, carrying the ball 97 times for 473 yards and one touchdown this year. Plummer has used his legs to accumulate 292 yards on 76 carries with a touchdown run of his own.
Defensively, the Beavers are anchored by former HCAC Defensive Player of the Year Isaac Zickafoose. The senior defensive end is having another stellar season, leading the HCAC with 8.5 sacks and ranking second on the Beavers with 49 tackles. Leading the team is stops is junior Dylan Shaffer, who has racked up 54 stops and 3.5 tackles for a loss. Senior defensive back Doniven Clark has been a ball hawk in the secondary, leading the HCAC with seven interceptions coming into this week.
It has been business as usual for the Franklin offense this season, depsite hefty turnover coming into the year. The Grizzlies' 601.3 yards per game and 241 total first downs are the most in Division III. Additionally, Franklin ranks third in third down conversion percentage (54.3%) and fourth in both passing offense (365.4 ypg) and scoring offense (48.4 ppg).
The always-potent Franklin air attack has been powered by the duo of Braden Smith and Brad Bonomini this year, and each player sits at the top of the conference rankings coming into this week. Smith's 352.1 yards per game through the air is tops in the conference while his 28 touchdown passes against just four interceptions ranks second in the league. Bonomini tops all receivers with 131.9 yards per game.
Ground and Pound
Franklin's ground game has been just as devastating as thier passing attack, ranking first in the HCAC and 31st in Division III with 235.9 yards per contest. Jacob Earl ranks third in the league in rushing yards (889) and yards per game (111.1) with both marks in the top-30 nationally. Last Saturday, the Grizzlies racked up 220 yard on the ground, with five different ball carriers getting in on the action.
HCAC Player of the Week
Bonomini and freshman kicker Carter Brown collected HCAC Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Week honors on Monday. Bonomini's 164 yards and three scores earned him his first career weekly award while Brown went 6-for-6 in extra points and buried his only field goal attempt of the afternoon. At least one Grizzly has been named conference player of the week over the last five weeks. Preceding Bonomini and Brown were Offensive POW winners Fleet and Earl, Defensive POW Austin Fleming and Special Teams POW Jake Campbell.
Picking Their Spots
Seven 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, Chaz Hill and Dyllan Shelley.
The first Division III regional rankings debuted on Wednesday afternoon with Franklin ranked ninth in the North Region. The Grizzlies are the lone HCAC representative in the top-10.
Alone at the Top
With last week's win coupled with a Hanover loss, Franklin sits all alone in first place in the HCAC and can clinch another conference title with a win and a Hanover loss on Saturday. Since the 2007 season, the Grizzlies have been dominant against the rest of the HCAC, going 92-5 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. Manchester is the lone team on a bye in week ten. The other three games of the week are as follows:
Anderson at Mount St. Joseph, 1:30 p.m.
Defiance at Earlham, 1:30 p.m.
Rose-Hulman at Hanover, 2:00 p.m.
Follow the Action Live
Saturday's game will be broadcast live on GrizTV, sponsored by the Hubler Automotive Group. Sam Weiderhaft will have all the play-by-play action. Live stats will be available at franklingrizzlies.com and in-game updates will be provided on Twitter by following @FCGrizAthletics.