Bulldogs look to repeat

Published 12:02 am Thursday, November 8, 2007

MEADVILLE – Step one of the Franklin County Bulldogs’ bid to repeat as 3A champions begins Friday night in Sumrall.

Game time has been set for 7 in Sumrall.

“Everyone is 0 and 0 now,” Bulldogs head coach Grady McCluskey, who has led Franklin County to three straight playoff appearances, said. “This is a new season and it all starts Friday night.”

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McCluskey is no stranger to playoff football, as a quarterback at West Point High in 1987, he led his team to the 4A Championship.

Last year, in his second season as a high school head coach, he guided Franklin County to a school-best 14-1 record and its first state championship in football.

“We’ve got to take one game a time, that’s for sure,” McCluskey said. “And play our kind of football. Every game means everything now.”

Melvin Fennell, a 5-8, 165-pound senior has accounted for 20 touchdowns this season for 5-5 Sumrall, who is coached by Buddy Duke as Region 8-3A runner up behind Greene County.

The Bobcats use Fennell at three positions, running back, kick returner and cornerback.

“Their running back does a good job,” McCluskey said. “He’s a playmaker for their offense.”

The Franklin County defense will have the tough challenge of slowing down Fennell. Paced by All-State defensive linemen Josh and Bo Tillman, the Bulldogs have allowed less than 50-yards a game this season.

Last week they beat Amite County 34-14, allowing its first rushing touchdown in four games.

“It’s feels like we’ve been playing playoff games the last three weeks,” Bulldog defensive end Josh Tillman said. “Now we’re in and we know what we have to do.”

Josh leads the Bulldogs with 62 tackles and 13 sacks this season, while Bo Tillman has 55 tackles and 10 sacks. Last week the Tillman cousins combined to have 20 tackles and two sacks in the Bulldogs blowout victory.

Franklin County’s secondary hasn’t done a bad job either, collecting a school-record 17 picks this year. Junior Alex Smith and sophomore Darnell Ford share the lead in interceptions with five apiece.

Smith also leads the Bulldogs in rushing with 787 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns. Running back Jordan Hunt leads the team in scoring with 10 touchdowns.

“We’ve been playing some good football lately,” McCluskey said. “Still we can’t afford to let our guard down and start turning the ball over. We’ve also got to limit our mistakes.”