Franklin County Bulldogs dodge Carthage field goal

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 13, 2006

MEADVILLE — Destiny was on the Franklin County Bulldogs’ sideFriday night as Carthage kicker Richie Long shanked a 40-yard fieldgoal with 2.3 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a dramatic14-13 win. Franklin County advanced to the third round of the Class3A State Playoffs at Collins Friday.

“We dodged a bullet tonight,” said Bulldog head coach GradyMcCluskey after the game. “We find ways to win. It’s somethingwe’ve been doing all season. And again we did it tonight.”

Like an omen of what was to come, McCluskey told his Bulldogs athalftime that the game would come down to a field goal at the end.And when it did, luck bounced the Bulldogs way.

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“I told the guys at halftime that if we don’t score a touchdown,it was going to come down to a kick,” said McCluskey. “He (Long)was making 50-yarders in warmups, before the game. When he shankedit, that saved us.”

The Bulldogs (11-1) lost the ball three times, all in the secondhalf off fumbles. The game was played with a variety of bouncesthat went for and against Franklin County the entire night.

“It was a crazy game,” said Bulldog defensive captain GaryRogers. “Big plays is what kept us alive.”

Rogers, a 6-foot, 242-pound linebacker, kept Franklin County’sseason alive with big hits and a spectacular one-handedinterception deep in Carthage’s red zone during the third quarterto keep the Tigers from scoring.

“Defense played a great game,” added McCluskey. “Carthage is agood ballclub, they gave us more than a fight.”

Carthage (9-3) opened the game with a quick 25-yard touchdownstrike from quarterback Zeerika Hall to Antonio Ricks. Long’sextra-point attempt hit the left upright and bounced no good,giving the Tigers a 6-0 advantage.

In the second quarter, the Bulldogs answered with a PrestonGriffith 3-yard touchdown run. Bulldog kicker Jace Carlock wouldgive Franklin County the lead with his extra-point conversion.

The turnover bug would hit the Bulldogs in the third quarter,giving Carthage momentum to mount an early third quarter touchdownstrike from Hall to Ricks from 34 yards out. Long added theextra-point.

“We knew then we had to turn it up a notch,” said Bulldog juniordefensive end Aljoshua Tillman. “This was our season on theline.”

Bulldog sophomore fullback Jordan Hunt provided the Bulldogswith the game-tying touchdown, off a two-yard scamper with 8:52remaining in the game. Carlock would add the go ahead extra-point,to give the Bulldogs a 14-13 lead.

Franklin County’s stellar defense forced the Tigers to punt onthe next series, but the drama rose again when the Bulldogs fumbledat the 50-yard line with 3:29 to go.

“The way things were going, with us fumbling and droppingpasses, I thought tonight was not our night,” added McCluskey. “Butin the end, we survived.”

Franklin County next travels to Collins for a Class 3A SouthState semifinal game. Collins beat Yazoo County 24-7 Fridaynight.

“I know they have some athletes over there,” said McCluskey.”We’re going to have our hands full again.”

Griffith, the Bulldogs power running back, led all rushers with23 carries for 140 yards and a score. Collins added nine carriesfor 64 yards, while sophomore Alex Smith finished with sevencarries for 59 yards.

Through the air, Collins was 2-for-8 for 22 yards. Rogers andjunior Ryne Tutor each hauled in 11 yard receptions.

For Carthage, Hall was 7-of-16 for 119 yards. He threw twotouchdowns and two interceptions. Ricks caught four passes for 76yards. 6-7 wideout O’Neal Wilder caught two passes for 29yards.

Defensively, Harvey Ricks had five tackles, twofumble recoveries, and a sack. L.A. Jones added four hits, forcedtwo fumbles, and recovered a fumble.

For Franklin County, Gary Rogers led all tacklers with 10 hitsand a pick. Aljoshua Tillman added eight hits and deflected twopasses. Bo Tillman, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound defensive tackle,finished with seven tackles. Mike Hunt added an interception.