Franklin (10-2) at Whitehaven (12-0), 7 p.m. Friday
The Franklin Rebels have cruised through the first two rounds of the Class 6A state playoffs, but this week presents a different challenge than they’ve seen this season.
The Rebels travel Friday to Whitehaven to take on the undefeated Tigers, the top seed out of Region 4-6A. It’s Franklin’s first quarterfinal game since 2009.
“The last two weeks we’ve seen some speed, but not to the level that Whitehaven has,” FHS head coach Donnie Webb said. “It’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”
While Franklin’s games have been mostly lopsided to start the playoffs, Whitehaven has absolutely dominated its two opponents. The Tigers gave up just three points to Lebanon in the first round, then last week they beat Overton 30-0.
Defense has been the fuel to Whitehaven’s success all season. Opponents haven’t managed more than 20 points against the Tigers all season, and in their last five games they’ve given up a total of 12 points.
“In their 12 games they’ve given up 11 touchdowns, so obviously they’re really talented,” Webb said. “It’s not a huge complex scheme, but they coach it and play it well.”
Franklin will try to utilize its option attack with running back Mitch Rossi and quarterbacks Wes Patterson and Carter Hendry leading the way.
“We’ve got to be able to make them play all four parts of the option,” Webb said. “We have to make them be honest, and we have to control the football. When we get our chances to make plays, that’s what it comes down to.”
Rossi has rushed for 1,329 yards this season and has scored 17 total (12 rushing) touchdowns. Patterson is second on the team with 565 rushing yards and also has thrown for 911 yards. He’s accounted for 22 total touchdowns (6 run). Hendry has 541 rushing yards, 771 passing yards and 18 touchdowns (9 run).
With those three controlling the offense, Franklin will aim to keep Whitehaven’s potent offensive attack on the sidelines.
The Tigers have scored 35 points per game this season behind senior running back Kylan Watkins. He’s rushed for 1,589 yards and 28 touchdowns and also leads the team in receiving with 330 yards and four more scores.
“He’s a good, really talented football player,” Webb said. “We won’t be able to tackle him one on one, so we’re going to have to have a lot of maroon hats at the ball.”
Now that his team has reached the quarterfinals, Webb said he’s preaching to his players that they will be facing the state’s best competition every game from here-on out. If they stick true to what they do as a team, though, he expects them to be in a good position to advance.
“In the quarterfinals, everybody here is good,” he said. “It’s who is going to make more of the big plays when their time arises.
“This season has been really exciting, and I’m proud for the kids for doing something that hasn’t been done here since 2009. We’re competitive, and if you ask me as a coach, I want to keep playing. I want to have Thanksgiving dinner with these guys – I love my family, but I want to be practicing football. All we have to do is play Franklin football, and we can do it.”
A win would put Franklin in the state semifinals for the first time since their state runner-up season in 2008. There, the Rebels would face the winner of Ravenwood and Cordova.