Franklin Co. comeback eliminates Collins Tigers

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 20, 2006

COLLINS — With a head fake to the left and a shoulder lean tothe right, Jamie Collins took Franklin County’s season upon hisshoulders and raced 41 yards untouched to save the Bulldogs season.The sophomore quarterback faked out the entire Collins team on ascramble near the sidelines with 30 seconds remaining to giveFranklin County a dramatic 17-13 victory and land a spot in theSouth State Championship this Friday in Meadville.

“I just did what I had to do,” said Collins. “The play wascalled for me to pass, but I didn’t have time throw, so I ranit.”

The rest was just skill. Collins, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound signalcaller, dove out of bounds on the Bulldogs’ previous two plays togive Franklin County time for one last comeback attempt. On thenext play, Collins took it on himself not to pass and run. As heheaded for the sidelines, he saw he had one Tiger defender left tobeat and faked him

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I thought he was headed out of bounds,” said Bulldog seniorlineman Cable McMinn, the starting right guard. “When I saw himstop and go right, I knew he was going to go down the sidelines andscore.”

The Bulldogs (12-1) will play Class 3A defending state championHazlehurst in the South State Championship in Meadville Fridaynight at Louie Mullins Memorial Stadium. Game time has been set for7 p.m.

“Tonight was unbelievable,” said Bulldog head coach GradyMcCluskey. “We were hollering for Jamie to get out of bounds, buthe faked him (defender) out and scored.”

Franklin County began the game clicking on all cylinders, assophomore tailback Alex Smith raced 22 yards to paydirt, giving theBulldogs a quick 7-0 lead in the first frame.

Collins (9-4) answered the Bulldogs scoring attack with one oftheir own by going 70 yards on nine plays to score off a MauriceOwens 5-yard pass to Jermaine Keys to tie the game up at 7-all.

For the next two quarters, the Bulldogs and Tigers endured adefensive struggle. Franklin County stopped Collins threeconsecutive times in the Tigers red zone to secure the tie. TheTigers, on the other hand, used a plate full of Bulldog mistakes inpenalties and turnovers to keep FCHS at bay.

“It was an unreal game,” said McCluskey. “Defense really madesome big plays tonight, especially in the red zone.”

Bulldog senior linebacker Preston Griffith recovered a fumble onthe Tigers 42 yard line with 6:30 to go. It set up place-kickerJace Carlock’s go-ahead field goal from 20 yards out to give FCHS a10-7 advantage. Carlock had missed on a previous field goal attemptfrom 32 yards out with 9:21 remaining.

“I knew I had to redeem myself,” said Carlock after the game.”It felt good when I made it.”

A key interception by Tigers defensive back Corey Jones, with2:42 remaining at the Bulldogs 48, helped give Collins hope. Jonesreturned the ball to the Bulldogs 15 yard line.

Two plays later, Owens connected with Will Keyes from 15 yardsout to give the Tigers a 13-10 lead. Bulldog senior defensive endBrandon Collins blocked the extra-point, to give the Bulldogs aboost of momentum with 2:09 left.

“Someone had to step up for us to stay alive,” said Bulldogjunior Josh Tillman. “Jamie did in a big way.”

Franklin County’s last score sealed the deal, as the Bulldogssidelines erupted in a joyous celebration.

The Bulldogs hitting crew of Bo Tillman, Brandon Collins, andAlvin Hunt each combined to sack Owens the next two plays to endthe game.

“I’m happy we are going to be playing at home next week,” saidMcCluskey as he shook each of his assistants’ hands after the game.”We are going to be ready for whoever its going to be.”

Hazlehurst beat Southeast Lauderdale Friday night 47-18 to earnthe right to visit Meadville. The Bulldogs and Indians haven’tplayed since 2004, when they were former district rivals.

“They beat us in 2004 for district, and we beat them in 2003 fordistrict,” said Bulldog senior defensive captain Gary Rogers. “Weowe them.”

Rogers led all tacklers with a game-high 12 hits, a sack, and aforced fumble. Josh Tillman added seven hits, a fumble recovery, asack, and deflected a pass. Brandon Collins finished with fivetackles, two sacks, a deflection, and a blocked kick. Mike Huntmade an interception.

On offense, Jamie Collins led the Bulldogs with 85 yards rushingon 16 carries. He was 2-of-13 in the air for 40 yards. Griffithadded 83 yards on 17 attempts, while junior speedster Antonie Guicecarried the ball four times for 52 yards.

“It’s us and Hazlehurst now,” said Jamie Collins. “It doesn’tget any better than this for South State.”