Friday night wasn’t a realistic chance for Great Crossing to win its second consecutive football game.
Still, the Warhawks accomplished plenty of positives in a 55-14 loss to unbeaten Franklin County at Birds’ Nest Stadium that would have been far-fetched in August.
Long, second-half touchdown runs by Caleb Griggs and Markeese Dean, covering 45 and 69 yards, respectively, were two prime examples.
Three other sojourns onto the Flyers’ side of midfield, thanks to rugged runs by Kaspen Colbert and Kalib Perry behind a developing offensive line, were additional signs of growth.
And the GC defense made a prolific Franklin County offense earn its keep, particularly in the first half. The Flyers needed a last-minute touchdown to take a 27-0 lead into the locker room.
“We played pretty good football,” GC coach Paul Rains said. “They hit us with every kind of play, trick play, you could run. We put them in third down situations and showed some good tackling. It’s a different team than what was out here the first half of the season.”
Ultimately, Franklin County (10-0) flaunted too many weapons, none sharper than quarterback Nick Broyles.
Broyles accounted for the Flyers’ first six touchdowns, three on the strength of his arm and the others with his feet. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 267 yards and rushed 10 times for an additional 120.
Tariq Lester combined nine rushes for 78 yards with seven receptions for 93 yards and one score in each fashion. Fred Farrier also caught two touchdowns.
The Flyers served up 555 yards, all told, to the Warhawks’ 196.
Franklin County sacked Perry six times, five by Brady Holleran, giving him an astonishing 19 on the season.
“That’s a great football team, and they still ended up with a wide spread, but right up until the end of the second quarter we were right there battling with them,” Rains said. “I’m proud of our guys for showing that kind of fight with the type of competition that we were going up against.”
Holleran’s first stop in the backfield forced a three-and-out on Great Crossing’s opening possession. Franklin County took over at the Warhawks’ 44-yard line after a short punt and needed only five plays to cash in, capped by a 16-yard, read-option keeper from Broyles.
GC appeared to be stopped without a first down on its next series, but a roughing-the-punter flag put the Warhawks in business at the Flyers’ 41.
Colbert sandwiched solid gains of nine and six around a five-yard chain mover from Perry to put GC at the FC 21, but two more Holleran sacks stymied the series. The second forced a fourth-down fumble, recovered by the Flyers’ Phillip Peiffer.
Franklin County used a flea-flicker to make it 13-0 in the final minute of the opening quarter. After a pitch back to Broyles, he found favorite target Farrier wide open down the visiting sideline.
More trickery in the form of a squib kick, recovered by Kendall Roederer, gave Franklin County an immediate opportunity to pile on. Chase Little put that threat to rest by pouncing on a loose ball at the GC 13.
“It’s been a successful year. There were doubts whether we would even have a team at one time,” Rains said. “We’ve got so many of these linemen that have never even had a hat on before, and they’re out here playing. They don’t get to come off the field much. I’m proud of every one of them. The seniors, the positive attitude they’ve got, you can’t beat it.”
The Warhawks punted after the takeaway, though, and the Flyers persisted after one touchdown pass was nullified by a penalty to score again. Broyles’ screen to Lester on third-and-21 covered 27 yards to the end zone for a 20-0 cushion with 9:49 left in the half.
Lester partially blocked Perry’s punt at midfield to keep Franklin County’s momentum cooking. Great Crossing countered with its best defensive sequence of the evening.
Franklin County hurt itself with a pair of penalties in the red zone. Jacob Coulter knocked down a throw on third down, and the Flyers’ 34-yard field goal attempt veered wide left.
Holleran picked the pocket again to douse the Warhawks’ next drive, and the Flyers’ hurry-up offense delivered with strikes of 13 yards to Braedyn Tracy and 25 to Farrier on consecutive plays to chalk up a TD just before the break.
Broyles’ 9-yard scamper made it 34-0 just under two minutes into the third quarter.
Running time was imminent, but Griggs delayed those thoughts for a while with his scoring sprint. The freshman Colbert (17 carries, 64 yards) set the table with what has become his trademark toughness between the tackles in the final month of the regular season.
“Kaspen Colbert has been a big plus for us,” Rains said. “He’s going to be a great player. We’re keeping the ball in Kalib’s hands and Kaspen’s, and every now and then you hit them with a little Griggs here and there. It’s worked well for us. It fits our personnel real well.”
Franklin County used the screen to perfection again in reply, with Zach Claudio’s 34-yard catch-and-scoot from Broyles setting up the QB’s 6-yard score.
A 12-play drive by GC took up most of what time remained in the third quarter. It fizzled on a fumble, recovered by Jacob Brock at the Flyers’ 22.
Lester’s TD rush pushed the margin past the running clock threshold on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
GC’s mishandled snap on a punt led to Issaia Israel’s 15-yard TD jaunt prior to Dean’s dynamic burst to the house.
By virtue of last week’s breakthrough win at Grant County, the Warhawks will have a district semifinal playoff date at Frederick Douglass (10-0). The game will be played Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.