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Franklin Co. hosts Indians tonight

MEADVILLE – An overflow crowd is expected Friday night in LouieMullins Memorial Stadium for the Class 3A South State Championshipbetween the Franklin County Bulldogs and the visiting HazlehurstIndians. Game time is 7 p.m.

In the Class 3A North State, Nettleton faces Ripley for theright to go to the State Championship next Saturday in Jackson.

The Indians (10-2) are the defending Class 3A State Champions,they eliminated Southeast Lauderdale 47-18 last week.

“They are loaded with speed,” said Franklin County head coachGrady McCluskey after reviewing film on the Indians. “They will bethe best team we’ve seen this year.”

The Indians and Bulldogs have no love lost between them. Theyused to be division rivals, before district realignment lastyear.

“We lost to them up there in 2004 for the district title,” saidMcCluskey. “They are just as good as that season’s team. They’vegot four guys we’ve got to try and contain.”

Hazlehurst not only has one 1,000-yard rusher for the season,but three. Senior running backs Courtney Hall (1,720, 29 TDs),Bobby Moore (1,104, 12 TDs), and sophomore fullback Keyshon Reese(1,005, 11 TDs) pace the Indians’ ground attack. Senior quarterbackDamien Anderson (1,020 passing, 715 rushing) keeps teams offbalance. Anderson is a Mississippi State commitment.

“Hazlehurst is very talented,” said McCluskey. “They have threeor four who can really run. They are big on the offensive line.They run that Wing-T.

“We are going to have to hold them down. We have to control theball on offense.”

Hall scored four rushing touchdowns against SE Lauderdale lastweek, while Moore added two scores.

“It feels pretty good to be one game away from going to theState Championship in Jackson,” said first year Hazlehurst bossVernon Perry, a former NFL defensive back. “We’ve got to play afull four quarters, and stay with our game plan.”

Perry’s game plan will be to disrupt Franklin County’squarterback Jamie Collins, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound sophomorestandout.

“We’ve got to contain Franklin County’s quarterback,” saidPerry. “If we contain him, we’ve got a good chance.”

Last week, Collins kept the FCHS season alive by scoring thegame-winning touchdown from 41-yards out with 19.9 secondsremaining against the Collins Tigers. The Bulldogs beat the Tigers17-13.

Franklin County (12-1) got a 22-yard touchdown run fromsophomore tailback Alex Smith and a 20-yard field goal fromsophomore place-kicker Jace Carlock in the victory.

Preston Griffith, the Bulldogs’ 6-foot-1, 215-pound seniorrunning back, added 83 yards on 15 carries in the contest. For theseason, Griffith has 1,396 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

“Were excited about hosting South State,” said McCluskey. “Thisis the second time in the last three years we’ve have had ithere.”

The Bulldogs last hosted South State in 2004, losing to WestLauderdale 7-0 in Meadville.

Franklin County’s stingy defense enters the game holdingopponents to 12.8 points a game, while Hazlehurst’s dynamic offenseenters the contest averaging 42.1 points.

“That’s going to be the story right there,” said McCluskey. “Whostops who Friday night.”

BULLDOG NOTES: Franklin County took practice off forThanksgiving yesterday, while Hazlehurst held a morning walkthrough. The Bulldogs last went to the State Championship game in1994 against Amory.