Louisville the only obstacle in Bulldogs’ title bid

Published 12:04 am Thursday, December 6, 2007

JACKSON — For Franklin County the final step is just one game away as the Bulldogs will play for a chance to repeat as 3A champions Saturday.

They will face Louisville in the State Championship game in Jackson’s Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium at 3 p.m.

“It’s the two best teams in 3A,” Louisville head coach Brad Peterson said. “The match-up everybody wanted to see, they got.”

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Louisville, which has beaten Kossuth, Charleston, Ripley, and Corinth in succession to claim the 3A North State Championship is paced by junior quarterback Clayton Moore, who has passed for 3,004 yards and 29 touchdowns.

“He’s a good player that makes good decisions,” said Franklin County head coach Grady McCluskey after reviewing film on the Wildcats. “They will be the best team we have seen this year, no doubt.”

The Wildcats (11-3) lost to Wayne County, Starkville, and 4A finalist Noxubee County earlier this season before rebounding and winning their last seven straight.

“We played some really good teams early on,” Peterson said. “Playing strong competition only makes you stronger.”

Franklin County (12-2) and 26-3 over the last two seasons, enters the game fresh from a 38-13 victory over Raleigh. The Bulldogs beat Sumrall, Morton, and Newton County en route to claiming their second straight South State 3A Championship. FC has won their last 8 games.

“We’re going to have to come ready to play Saturday,” added McCluskey. “Louisville has a lot of weapons on offense and a good defense and kicking game. They have been good in 4A forever, and now they are in their first year in 3A.”

Both the Bulldogs and Wildcats rolled through the playoffs despite have third round scares, ironically. Franklin County overcame a 23-7 second quarter deficit on the road at Newton County, to win 43-23. Franklin County’s defense has held teams to an average of 10.6 points a game this season.

Louisville also overcame a second quarter deficit of 19-0 at Ripley, to win 28-22. The Wildcats are averaging 35.1 points a game this year.

Speedster Dennis Thames is Louisville’s playmaker. Thames, a 5-11, 180-pound junior, with 4.4 forty-yard dash speed has caught 8 touchdowns and has also rushed for 8 touchdowns. He also plays linebacker and has registered 81 hits and three interceptions. He’s taken two picks back for touchdowns.

“I just try and make plays anywhere I can,” said Thames.

Franklin County has been paced by an assortment of playmakers this season. Juniors Alex Smith and Jamie Collins have each eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark, while seniors Bo Tillman and Josh Tillman are nearing 100 tackles apiece. Josh Tillman holds the school-record with 20 sacks this season.

“We’ve been doing our best every game,” said Josh Tillman, a

6-5, 245-pound defensive end. “We want another ring, and we’re one game away from getting it.”

The Bulldogs will be the home team in Saturday’s match-up. Franklin County and Louisville have never met on the gridiron, until Saturday.

“I love championship games,” said Bo Tillman. “I’m leaving everything on the field come Saturday, everything!”