Bulldogs headed for Jackson

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

MEADVILLE &8212; Two years ago, Franklin County was one of the top teams in Region 7-3A and advanced to the Class 3A South State Championship game while Hazlehurst was struggling just to get to the playoffs.

That changed last year as Hazlehurst steamrolled through Region 6-3A on its way to a state championship. On Friday night, both teams found themselves competing against each other again.

Only this time the Class 3A South State Championship and a berth in the state championship game was on the line. And Franklin County was the one that came out on top as the No. 2 ranked Bulldogs defeated the defending state champion Indians 21-7.

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&8220;We played well. Players did good. Coaches did good,&8221; Franklin County head coach Grady McCluskey said. &8220;I think we played like we&8217;re capable of playing. We&8217;re excited about having the chance to play in Jackson.

Franklin County (13-1) will take on the top-ranked Nettleton Tigers (14-0), a 55-22 winner over Ripley in the North State title game, next Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Mississippi Memorial Coliseum in Jackson for the Class 3A state championship.

Hazlehurst (10-3) was hoping to get back to Jackson and defend its state title and win one for first-year head coach Willie Brown. Instead, a solid running game led by senior Preston Griffith and an attacking defense by the Bulldogs gave the Indians their first since Sept. 29, when they lost at Ouachita (La.) 40-35.

Franklin County also ended up being the only team to hold the Indians under 20 points all season. The Bulldogs&8217; defense held Hazlehurst&8217;s running game to just 90 yards on 34 carries and allowed just 151 total yards.

Gary Rogers led the way with 14 tackles while Brandon Collins has 10 tackles and two sacks. And even though junior defensive tackle Bo Tillman had only three tackles, he did intercept a Damien Anderson pass.

&8220;Defense played lights out,&8221; McCluskey said. &8220;We hemmed them up and tackled them. We didn&8217;t make many mistakes.&8221;

Bobby Moore gave Hazlhurst its only lead of the game on a 1-yard touchdown run that capped off a three-play, 55-yard drive. Keyshon Reece&8217;s extra point gave the Indians a 7-0 lead with 6:09 to go in the first quarter.

Franklin County quarterback Jamie Collins scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 1-yard run that finished a 10-play, 62-yard drive. Jace Carlock&8217;s extra point tied the game at 7-7 at the 3:12 mark of the first quarter.

The Bulldogs took the lead for good on Griffith&8217;s 5-yard touchdown run with 8:39 remaining in the second quarter. They went 46 yards on six plays on that scoring drive. Carlock&8217;s extra point gave them a 14-7 lead.

Griffith had another solid game for Franklin County as he finished with 132 yards rushing on 22 carries.

&8220;Our line has five seniors. He&8217;s a senior. We have eight seniors on offense. We have good special teams,&8221; McCluskey said. And those seniors made sure that this would not be their last game of the season.

A seven-play, 55-yard drive by the Bulldogs culminated with Collins&8217; 1-yard touchdown run with 4:46 to go until halftime and. Carlock added the point-after for a 21-7 halftime lead. Collins had 42 yards rushing on 15 carries.

&8220;Our offense played well in the first half,&8221; McCluskey said. &8220;In the second half, we got stuffed a few times.&8221;

McCluskey noted that another key to the Bulldogs&8217; win was that they did not turn the ball over once. What was unusual was that they did not even attempt a pass the entire game. All 197 of their yards were on the ground.