Franklin County needs one win to get back to state title game

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2007

MEADVILLE — Josh Tillman may have said it best when asked about the hype and build-up for this Friday night’s Class 3A South State Championship showdown between his Franklin County Bulldogs and the Raleigh Lions.

“Now we know this is our last game at home,” said Tillman, a 6-5, 245-pound senior defensive end. “It’s time to go out with a bang.”

A ticket to the 3A Championship will be on the line as the Bulldogs and Lions meet at 7 p.m. in Meadville’s Louie Mullins Memorial Stadium.

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“We’ve come a long way this season,” said Franklin County head coach Grady McCluskey, who has guided the Bulldogs to a 25-3 record over the last two seasons. “Raleigh is a talented ball club, one with big play capability.”

The Lions (10-2) rely strongly on their passing game to catch opponents off guard with the deep ball. Junior quarterback Paul Black leads the team, while senior wide outs Chris Lofton and Jamie Bender anchor the receiving corps.

“No. 1 (Lofton) and No. 7 (Bender) are playmakers,” said McCluskey. “The quarterback (Black) also does a good job running the offense.”

Coached by Durwood Anderson, the Lions have won their last eight ball games, which includes a 42-6 victory over Tylertown last week in the 3A quarterfinals. Bender scored two touchdowns last week, off a 60-yard run and an 85-yard interception return.

As for Franklin County (11-2), they have won their last 7 games. Last week they came back to beat Newton County 43-23 behind four rushing touchdowns from junior quarterback Jamie Collins. FC trailed Newton County 23-7 late in the second quarter, before Collins reeled off four straight scores.

“This is a big game,” said Collins. “The biggest all season, so we’ve got to be ready.”

Collins, a 6-4, 210-pound standout also made an interception last week and deflected three passes from his free safety position. He is slated to start at both positions Friday night, as the Bulldogs hope to contain Raleigh’s air raid.

Josh Tillman has also led the Bulldogs defensively, last week he collected 12 tackles and recovered a fumble in the win. Senior defensive tackle Bo Tillman registered 12 hits and broke up four passes, with his massive 6-foot-6-inch, 300-pound frame.

For the season, Josh Tillman has 90 tackles, 18 sacks, 5 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception. Bo Tillman has 77 tackles, 11 sacks, and two fumble recoveries.

“I’ve never in my 20 years seen two players whip a offense, but those two Tillman boys did just that to us,” said Newton County head coach Jeff Breland following his team’s defeat to Franklin County, which saw Newton County register just 22-yards of total offense in the second half.

“They are just that good,” said Breland.

The winner of the Franklin County/Raleigh game will face the survivor of the Louisville/Corinth contest next week in the 3A State Championship in Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 3:00.

“We’re one game away,” adds McCluskey.