Franklin County wins South State

Published 1:17 am Saturday, December 1, 2007

MEADVILLE — By the time the Raleigh Lions knew what hit them Friday night, Franklin County’s Damien Burnett was already celebrating.

The sophomore defensive back got the Franklin County party started early with a helmet bouncing hit. The Bulldogs were already celebrating a dominating 38-13 victory before the Lions could see straight.

The defending 3A champion Bulldogs (12-2) will next play Louisville for the 3A State Championship Saturday afternoon at 3:00 in Jackson.

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“We brought the pain tonight,” said Bulldog senior defensive end Josh Tillman. “And Raleigh felt it.”

The Lions (10-3) struck first, but not often. Raleigh scored off a 74-yard pass from quarterback Paul Black to wide out Dontrell Walker to take an early 7-0 lead.

Franklin County answered and kept answering.

Alan Hunt scored off a 3-yard run to tie the game with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter. Moments later Jamie Collins answered with the go ahead score off a 2-yard plunge to give Franklin County a 14-7 lead.

“We weren’t going to be stopped,” said a grinning Collins after the game. “Jackson here we come.”

The Bulldogs added a 3-yard touchdown plunge from Alan Hunt for his second score of the night right before halftime.

“Scoring right before the half was big,” said Franklin County head coach Grady McCluskey, who has guided them to a 26-3 record during the last two seasons. “I’m proud of my kids, they fought hard the whole game.”

A 22-yard field goal by Jace Carlock in the third quarter stretched the Bulldogs lead to 24-7.

Collins would add another blow seconds later off a 40-yard run up the middle to give Franklin County a 31-7 lead with 4:53 to go in the third.

Raleigh got a late third quarter touchdown run of 15-yards from Jamie Bender, but it was too little too late.

Alex Smith, the Bulldogs junior running back/defensive back, added the final touches with his second interception of the night.

Smith and Collins also eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark for the season during the game. Collins had 135 yards rushing on 15 carries for two touchdowns. Smith finished with a game-high 138 yards rushing on 17 carries and also had two interceptions and two tackles on defense.

“I just have to thanks my O-Line and my D-Line,” said Smith. “They make things happen upfront. Without them none of this would be possible.”

The Bulldogs rushed for 452 yards offensively against the Lions, compared to Raleigh’s 202 yards of total offense.

“Defense played strong and we got the job done,” said McCluskey. “We’re going back to Jackson, back to the State Championship.”

Franklin County’s stands erupted in celebration and spilled onto the field as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Several players were greeted by fans, friends and family members after the game.

“This is a dream come true,” said Bulldog senior wide receiver Ryne Tutor after the game. “We’re going to play for the state championship again. Moments like this are rare, but I’m happy we’re going back.”

Tutor had the Bulldogs only catch in the game, a 20-yard reception on a key third and long in the first quarter that set the tone for the game in the Bulldogs favor.

“We’ve just did what we’ve had to do all season long,” said Bulldog sophomore lineman Gavin Weathers. “We’ve been hungry all season for this, and now we’re one win away from it.”