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Wilkinson Co. turns back Franklin County Bulldogs

WOODVILLE – A classic. That’s what the Region 7-3A championshipgame became Friday night as the Wilkinson County Wildcats edged outthe Franklin County Bulldogs 20-14. The Wildcats used touchdownruns of 2, 15 and 20 yards from senior runningback Carl Cage tosecure the victory.

The Wildcats (9-0, 6-0) will enter next week’s Class 3Aplayoffs, hosting Forest County AHS while the Bulldogs (6-4, 4-2)travel to Green County.

“Carl made the plays when we needed them the most,” saidWilkinson County head coach John Moore. “He’s helped us out a lotthis season. And tonight, he did it when we needed it themost.”

Cage, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior speedster, overwhelmed theDawgs the entire night with powerful, grueling runs, that resultedin 15 carries for 131 yards and three scores. Cage gained 58 yardson five carries in the first half after scoring on runs of 15 and20 that gave the Wildcats’ Mean Green Machine a 14-7 halftimeadvantage.

Franklin County’s Cecil Kinzie ran 7 yards for a second-quarterTD and Blackwell kicked PAT.

“We ran the ball a lot more in the first half than we’ve beendoing,” continued Moore. “Franklin County’s defense was the mainreason we did it. They were covering our receivers good so thatopened up our ground game.”

After gaining no yards with 6:02 left in the third, the Wildcatswere forced to punt, allowing the Dawgs to gain momentum and a tieoff a seven-play, 63-yard drive that was capped off by a strong14-yard run by Tommie Smith.

“I thought we had the momentum the rest of the way after thatrun,” said Smith. “They just found ways to beat us in the fourth.And that hurts.”

The Bulldog defense rose again in the fourth frame by stoppingCage three yards behind the line of scrimmage for a fourth downpunt. On the punt, Cage blasted the Dawgs with a 25-yarder that putthem on their 15-yard line.

From there, the Dawgs offense went dead. The Wildcats used asack and two no gainers to force a punt on fourth down. Jacksonthen turned on his after-burners in collecting the 26-yard ByronBrooks punt for a 22-yard return. Six players later, Cage added histhird score of the night from two yards out. The Wildcats tookcommand 20-14 with 1:29 left.

“I told our defense to watch the pass,” said Moore. “I knewFranklin was going to throw it because of the amount of timeremaining.”

The Dawgs did indeed pass and the Wildcats made sure the firstthree were incomplete. But on fourth down that changed as juniorquarterback Colby Beach found a wide open Smith on an out routenear the sidelines. Smith juked and jived but it wasn’t enough asCage and senior linebacker Peter Lollis stopped him two yards shortof a first down.

The Wildcats ran the remaining ticks off the clock as theirbench erupted in celebration for their first undefeated regularseason in Moore’s 22 years at the helm. Moore described the momentas being special but pointed out that it doesn’t

mean nothing unless they care of business in the playoffs.

“It’s good to go undefeated,” said Moore. “But now we’ve got toreally work. We’ve got to be ready for Forest AHS next week or this(perfect season) is just a foot note.”

For the Bulldogs,Coach Michael Goff told his club about steppingup and the effort they gave against the Wildcats in front of apacked house. The Dawgs must resume their road warrior style playthis Friday as they travel to the Mississippi/Alabama state line totake on the Greene County Wildcats.

“It’s always tough to lose a close one,” said Goff to the team.”But we’ve got to come back and step it up next week.”

Goff’s Dawgs return to the playoffs after a four-year absence.This will be their first meeting with powerful Region 8-3A inmemory.

Defensively, the Dawgs were led by junior nose guard TaylorMcMinn with 12 tackles. and one sack. Seniors James Hunt, WalterAnderson and junior Jason Wyatt had eight stops apiece.

For the Wildcats, junior defensive end Brittion Turner had 17stops (13 solos),Lollis had 12 tackles . Cage finished with 10.