Franklin Co. in 3A title defense

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 6, 2007

JACKSON — Bo Tillman can’t help but smile, because he knowshe’s getting one of his Christmas presents early.

“I’m going to get to play in back-to-back state championships,”said Tillman. “This is something I always wanted, and I’m about toget to do it one more time. I love championship games.”

Tillman and his Franklin County teammates know that the stakeswill be higher than ever Saturday afternoon, as an upstart andtalent-rich Louisville team comes calling for the Bulldogs andtheir 3A crown. Kickoff is 3 p.m.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We have something they want,” said Bulldog senior defensive endJosh Tillman. “We’ve got to step up and keep it Saturday.”

The Bulldogs have been led by the Tillman cousins this season asdynamic forces on defense.

“Every game I’m giving my all, and trying to catch thequarterback or the running back,” said Josh. “I’ve accomplished oneof my goals this year in breaking the school sack record, but Istill have one more left and that’s to win another statechampionship.”

Josh Tillman has made 94 tackles and gathered a school record 20sacks this year. He’s also recovered 5 fumbles and forcedeight.

Bo Tillman has 81 tackles, 12 sacks, and two fumblerecoveries.

Elsewhere on defense the Bulldogs have a Class 3A-leading 24interceptions, Junior cornerback Alex Smith leads the way with 7picks. Sophomore Darnell Ford has 6 picks.

“Our defense played lights out in the second half against NewtonCounty and last week against Raleigh,” said FC head coach GradyMcCluskey. “We’re going to step it up this week. Louisville isreally talented.”

The Bulldogs are also paced by two 1,000-yard rushers in AlexSmith (1,091) and Jamie Collins (1,020). Junior fullback JordanHunt has 836 yards rushing and leads the team in scoring with 16touchdowns.

“Our offensive line has really helped our team jell thisseason,” said McCluskey. He starts Josey Carithers, Davion Norton,Gavin Weathers, Bobby O’Quinn, Will Clinkscales, and Josh Tillmanup front.

“They have done a good job blocking,” adds McCluskey. “We rushedfor over 450-yards last week against Raleigh.”

McCluskey admits that his team will face the most talented teamthis week in pass-happy Louisville. The Wildcats can also run theball at will if junior standout Dennis Thames is on.

“They (Louisville) are the best team we have seen this season,”said McCluskey after reviewing film on the Wildcats. “They have agood QB, RB, and O-Line. Defense is sound and kicking game is alsogood.”

The Bulldogs beat Sumrall, Morton, Newton County, and Raleigh tocollect their second straight South State championship.

Franklin County beat Nettleton last year 23-13 to win the 3Atitle.

“Louisville is strong and they do a good job on both sides ofthe ball,” adds McCluskey. “We’re going to have to be ready toplay.”

McCluskey is 2-1 against Louisville as a former player, whoprepped at West Point High (1984-1987), McCluskey led West Point tothe 4A State Championship in 1987, and beat Louisville in the NorthState Championship that year.

“They have always been tough,” said McCluskey. “This is theirfirst year down from 4A to 3A, and they haven’t lost a beat.”

BULLDOG BITES: The Bulldogs took a tour ofJackson and Veteran’s Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, before bussingback to Meadville for a late afternoon practice.

Franklin County plans to leave Meadville at 8:30 Saturdaymorning, before stopping and eating in Jackson before heading tothe Stadium. The Bulldogs will be the designated home team thisyear.

Franklin High will also try to become the first program fromSouthwest Mississippi to repeat as State Champions.