Franklin County secures Class 3A state crown

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 5, 2006

JACKSON – As the skies grew darker Saturday afternoon inJackson’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Franklin County Bulldogsgrew stronger.

With a dominating 23-13 victory over the Nettleton Tigers. TheBulldogs secured their first ever football championship in schoolhistory.

Franklin County finished the season 14-1 overall, their bestmark ever.

“I preached to our guys in believing and finishing this week,”said Bulldogs head coach Grady McCluskey. “We worked hard to gethere, and now its done. We are State Champions.”

McCluskey, who quarterbacked West Point to a State Championshipin the late 1980’s, watched his Bulldogs blast Nettleton with 367yards of total offense and convert 24 first downs.

The Tigers (14-1), who came into the contest averaging 38.9points per game and 415 yards on offense was held to a mere 13points and 160 yards of offense.

“Franklin County’s a great football team,” said Nettleton coachScott Cantrell. “They were physical and they were fast. Number 55(Bo Tillman) and number 13 (Aljoshua Tillman) ate us alive.”

The Tillman cousins kept Nettleton quarterback Jami Boland onhis toes the entire game with hurries and hits that disrupted theTigers offensive flow.

Franklin County arsenal of weapons on offense also kept themomentum on the Bulldogs side.

“We would not be denied,” said FCHS assistant coach Jeremy Loy.”This is something we’ve worked the entire year for, and now wehave it.”

The Bulldogs were aided by the clutch play of sophomore JamieCollins. The 6-4, 205-pound Collins doubled as FCHS safety andquarterback. He collected three interceptions and two tackles ondefense and scored three touchdowns on offense.

“I just did what I had to do for us to win,” said Collins. “Myoffensive line blocked hard tonight and my receivers and runningbacks stepped up and made plays. We did it, we won the StateChampionship.”

Collins jump started the Franklin High offense in the firstquarter with a dazzling 7-yard touchdown pass to senior wideoutGreg Hunt, to give FCHS a quick 7-0 lead after kicker JaceCarlock’s extra-point.

Nettleton answered in the second frame with a Boland one-yardsneak to tie the game, but Franklin County fought back.

Using some big plays from their underclassmen, in aninterception by sophomore Alex Smith and a spectacular one-handedcatch by junior wideout Ryne Tutor to keep a late drive going. TheBulldogs added a touchdown with 0:19 remaining in the first half,off a 9 yard connection from Collins to Tutor.

“This was it, the biggest game of my life,” said Tutor. “I knewI had to step up when we needed it, and so I did.”

Tutor’s late grab, gave the Bulldogs a sense of security headinginto halftime. Franklin County came out in the second half reelingoff the play.

“We took it up another step,” said Bulldogs secondary coach D.C.Tadlock. “We made big plays.”

Interceptions by Collins and Smith, helped setup a Jamie Collinssix yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogsadded a safety for insurance later on, as they took a 23-7 leadwith 7:19 to go.

“We couldn’t handle them (FC) up front,” said Cantrell. “Theygot to us down the stretch.”

A late touchdown pass from Boland to Ben McVay from 7 yards out,cut the deficit to 23-13. Boland’s throw tied him with CliftonDavis III (North Panola-1990) for the state’s single seasontouchdown record of 42.

“We was hitting them all day,” said Bulldog star linebacker GaryRogers, who finished the game with six hits. “Defense winschampionships, baby!”

Powered by Aljoshua Tillman’s 10 tackles and three quarterbackhurries on defense, the Bulldogs kept Boland and the rest ofNettleton off pace.

Bo Tillman, a 6-6, 310-pound monster at defensive tackle addedsix hits and deflected a pass. Alex Smith collected five hits andtwo picks.

“State Champs,” said Bo Tillman afterwards smiling. “We arenumber one.”

On offense, Jamie Collins led the Bulldogs in rushing with 18carries for 95 yards and a score. Through the air, he was 4-of-10for 89 yards and two touchdown passes.

Senior running back Preston Griffith added 85 yards rushing on18 touches. Sophomore fullback Jordan Hunt finished with 47 yardson 10 carries. Smith had 37 yards rushing on eight carries.

Tutor caught three balls for 42 yards and a touchdown, whileGreg Hunt had two receptions for 20 yards and a score. Senior MikeHunt had one reception for 27 yards.

“We believed all year,” said Bulldog senior captain Mike Hunt.”And now we’re the State Champs, time to order them rings and getthem jackets, ha, ha.”