Franklin County couldn’t defeat Tylertown

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 1, 2008

Meadville — It just wasn’t in the cards for the Bulldogs this year.

Tylertown High surely had Franklin County’s number this season, causing the only two losses for the Bulldogs this season.

The first gave the Chiefs the 3A Region 7 title, and the second, a 26-0 win on Friday in Meadville, gave Tylertown the South State championship.

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The Bulldogs, however, were left out to dry in the horribly rainy game conditions.

“Every time we tried to play them they’ve just been able to handle everything we’ve done,” said Franklin County coach Trent Hammond. “It was the worst weather I’ve ever played in. That had something to do with it, but I’m not ever going to take anything from Tylertown — they beat us twice.

“I would have loved to play them fully healthy one time, but that’s not the way it goes. To win the state championship you’ve got to be really good and you have to catch the breaks that fall your way.”

The health problems plagued the Bulldogs all year, whether they showed it or not, and two key players were reinjured Friday night.

Quarterback Jamie Collins and running back Alan Hunt both injured their ankles.

“We overcame a lot this year,” Hammond said. “We had what arguably could be our best lineman out the first part of the year, then later on two of our best players were out.”

By the end of the year, Hammond said, Collins and other major players were banged up from so much on-field abuse.

“That’s one of the things I’ve proud of the kids for,” he said. “There were so many injuries, and kids had to step up and play. And we continued to win despite all that.”

Hammond said next season’s team will benefit from the experience of having to fill in for veterans and from getting to play in big games like the south state championship.

But he said next year’s team won’t have the big stars that were featured this year.

Collins is graduating and has committed to Auburn University, and many other key players like Jordan Hunt and Damien Burnett are graduating as well.

“We’ll have to be a blue-collar team with the mentality of each one doing their role,” Hammond said. “We won’t have those five-start athletes. Next year we’ll have a bunch of guys who will have to bring their lunch pail and go to work.”

The Bulldogs finished the season 12-2, placing second in Region 7.

Despite the successful season, Friday’s loss was hard to swallow.

“On Sunday after losing Friday, you don’t look at it as being a great year,” Hammond said. “You still taste the defeat. In a few weeks you’ll look back on it and say it was a great year and all, but at the present time, the one that got away was the worst one.”

Still, Franklin County and Hammond have a lot about which to be happy.

“I’m proud of them for … the way they worked in practice,” he said. “We have a lot of players that worked really hard in practice, trying to get better.

“One of the biggest things we’ve talked to our players about all year was being down 19 (points) at Natchez, come from behind to win that ballgame, especially to a team that had come back from 21 down to beat another team. To turn that around was a big win for our kids, just to show their character, and it’s a tribute to how hard they practiced.”

Block High is also swallowing a bitter pill after being crushed by South Plaquemines 66-7 Friday in the LHSAA 1A quarterfinals.

After the Bears scored on their first drive of the game, the Hurricanes’ speed took over, never letting up.

“That was the fastest team I’ve ever seen,” said Block coach Benny Vault. “You can’t even give the words to explain what I saw, but they’re ridiculously fast. I should have taken pictures and brought them back.”

To make matters worse, quarterback Curdarius Johnson broke his ankle early in the game.

Freshman quarterback Monte Washington had to finish out the rest of the game.

“I’m not saying his going down cost us the game, but we could have controlled the ball a lot more,” Vault said. “There were a lot of things we couldn’t do on offense because we had a freshman quarterback. It was hard to get a running play off, and I wasn’t going to put my freshman in a situation to try to throw a pass.”

Vault said he is fairly certain the Bears played the eventually 1A state champions, and he is still impressed with his team.

“Nobody in 1A will beat them,” he said. “If I was a betting man, I’d have to go with them.

“My (defensive) line would say their offensive linemen weren’t that strong, but they would just throw into space and you couldn’t hardly beat them with two men, much less one.”

From losing in the first round of the postseason last year to making it to the third round this year, Vault said he has been very pleased with Block’ season.

He said maybe the Bears can add another two wins next season and reach the state championship, especially with the 21 juniors Block has returning.

“I’ve always got that point of confidence,” he said. “I don’t want to lose. Some people might say I’m arrogant, but even my kids, they asked when were going to start lifting weights. They started mentioning the (2009) state championship.”

And if the community rallies around the Bears again like it did this season, Vault said his team can take this year as a learning experience.

“Just to get to that point after being down a couple years, to be back to having the football team be respectable again — it made everyone feel great,” he said. “It helped build confidence, letting them know that they can go out week-to-week and play with anyone.

“We got another year under out belts with my defensive and offensive system, and this season helped us get a better understanding of that.”