Last year, Franklin traveled to Grass Valley and notched its first playoff win. Fast forward a year and the Wildcats are now the No. 1 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. Behind a big night from Kyran Harris, they beat Nevada Union 35-14 at Cosumnes Oaks High School.
The game included a combined nine turnovers and numerous costly penalties that thwarted drives for both teams. The Wildcats did prevail by taking a 21-14 lead into halftime and shutout the Miners in the second half for the 21 point victory. The Wildcats relied on team speed on both sides of the ball to control the game.
Franklin scored on runs of 80, one, and 46 yards by Harris, who finished with 243 yards on the night. Christian Fonbuena chipped in with a touchdown run of 62 yards and also had two additional long runs which were called back due to penalties. Forbuena had 101 yards on the night.
On defense Franklin relies on the same speed and a great team concept of "do your job" led by linebacker Joey Banks and tackle William Vi. Banks, while only 5-11 and 185 pounds, uses great instincts and a willingness to mix it up with much larger players to make a number of plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. Vi, although undersized for the defensive line (210 pounds), has a good motor and led a front that pressured Miners' quarterback Kyle Cota all night and led to five sacks.
To further show how explosive Franklin was, it had six turnovers on the night and still won by three touchdowns. Most of the Wildcats' success came from quick pitches to the outside as the Miners did a relatively good job of controlling between the tackles. The inside threat for the Wildcats was Steven Rogers, who also led the way to the edge for big plays.
As for the Miners, they managed to keep it close for a half due to limiting their mistakes and taking advantage of Franklin's. Their offense was predicated on Cota (slowed by a leg injury) finding his receiving corp. Franklin applied a lot of pressure and played tough defense on the backside which made the windows for completion small. Wide receiver Ian Davis was his favorite target and caught a touchdown pass of 12 yards in the first quarter. On the ground their two biggest plays of the night were direct snaps out of the shotgun to their backs, once to Tanner Vallejo and the other Hank Humphers .
The best two players of the field tonight were Harris and Vallejo. Harris is an accomplished back who runs with patience and once he gets to the edge he doesn't get caught. He could be more dangerous as part of the passing game and getting him the ball in space would create additional problems for the defense.
Vallejo, the Boise State commit, is dominating on defense as he lines up six to seven yards off the line and explodes to the point of attack. One of the highlights of the night was a text book tackle in the hole of Harris that resulted in a two yard loss. Vallejo also lines up in the backfield for Nevada Union and scored on a 19 yard run after a spin move at the line of scrimmage. He was the backside protection on pass plays for Cota.
Next up for Franklin will be hosting Lincoln-Stockton, who defeated Merced tonight 52-7. This marks a rematch of last year playoff victory by Lincoln and a game certainly not forgotten by Franklin. After the game, Franklin head coach Mike Johnson explained "You don't get style points in the playoffs. It is just wins and losses." He added "We need clean up some areas and eliminate the six turnovers if we are going to move on."