By JAKE DONOVAN | Photos by STEVE WHEELER
The fleet feet of Mitch Rossi and Wes Patterson helped propel the Franklin Rebels to a 38-7 win over the visiting Germantown Red Devils in opening round of the Class 6A playoffs Friday.
Rossi added to a dream season with three touchdowns (2 receiving, 1 run) and 153 all-purpose yards, while Patterson threw for a touchdown (to Rossi) and ran for two more.
A stellar effort by the Rebels defense holding the Red Devils to just seven points came largely from its well-executed aggressive pass rush.
“We knew we’d be facing a well-rounded, very athletic team in Germantown; Who cares what their record says,” Franklin HS head coach Donnie Webb said of his opponent, a deceptive 3-7 coming into the evening. “Our defense gets the job done every week, but the plan tonight was to apply constant pressure on (quarterback Myles Guyton). I’d say we really succeeded in that aspect.”
They had plenty of opportunities, as the Red Devils – forced to change its mode of attack after digging an early hole for itself – ran 31 pass plays, completing just 13 for 125 yards. The majority of it came on the opening drive of the third quarter, which resulted in Germantown’s only score – a 2-yard run by Cameron Tewari – to cut the lead to 28-7.
The Red Devils threatened to claw their way back into the game after recovering an onside kick.
It ultimately proved moot, as the Rebels forced a three-and-out, with Matthew Burns returning the punt to the exact point of the recovered onside kick.
Despite favorable field position at the Germantown 40-yard line, Franklin failed to capitalize. Instead came the lone offensive mistake of the night, as an errant pass by Patterson landed in the outstretched arms of junior two-way starter Jaylin Williams.
“You know, I’m proud of the effort we put in, but yeah, I’d love to see our guys get rid of those stretches where it seems like we’re still warming up,” Webb admitted. “You can say that they were a bit lackadaisical, which is understandable when you have a 28-0 lead. But to change that – it starts with me being a leader on the sidelines and keeping our kids focused on every down.”
As has been the case throughout the season, the Rebels’ powerhouse offense ramped up the intensity early and kept putting points on the board. Rossi bookended a 90-yard scoring drive with a 32-yard run from the Rebels’ 10-yard line and a 33-yard touchdown reception from Carter Hendry (2-3, 56 yards, 1 TD), whose night was limited to just one quarter of action.
The normal two-headed quarterback tandem of Hendry and Patterson wasn’t needed on this evening, as the latter offensive leader was more than willing to do the heavy lifting.
Patterson increased the Rebels’ lead to 14-0 on a 16-yard quarterback keeper, and calling his own number on several risky runs in driving his team down the field before finding Rossi on a 20-yard strike to give Franklin a 28-0 lead heading into halftime.
“I’ll tell you what, Wes Patterson has got to be the toughest 130-pound kid in the world.” Webb quipped tongue-in-cheek of his quarterback’s lean frame. “The team really thrives on his courage, taking the ball up the middle and meeting defenders head on the way he does. I’d love to see him fall sideways on a few of those, to be perfectly honest. But he’s a gamer, and his teammates feed off of it.”
Patterson once again contributed with his arm and feet (8-12, 75 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT; 81 rush yds, 2 TDs), including a brave stretch for the final touchdown of the night. A 5-yard run to the house was preceded by a 17-yard run up the middle on 3rd-down three plays prior.
Rossi once again hit triple digits rushing (100 yards), having now amassed 17 offensive touchdowns and well north of 1,500 all-purpose yards. Though identified by many – including every opponent Franklin has faced this year – as the team leader, the stud senior running back refuses to validate that claim.
“It’s just an awesome feeling, to be able to contribute to this team,” said an ever-humble Rossi. “Our defense, they make it easy for us, getting the opposing offense off the field in a hurry and giving us great field position and the opportunity to put up points.”
The feeling is quite mutual on the other side of the ball.
“Watching those guys rack up yards and points the way they do, it’s awe-inspiring,” sophomore defensive end Christian Moolman (7 tackles, 1 QB sack) commented. “Mitch, Wes, Carter, JP (Batarseh)… you can just go down the whole roster. Everyone on this team has a role and we all do our part to make it a team effort, not just relying on one or two of us to get the job done.”
With the first playoff win out of the way, Franklin (9-2) will have to get the job done against yet another Memphis-area school next weekend. The Rebels will play host to White Station, which advanced to second round action with a 30-12 win over Antioch High School.
“We’re expecting another team looking to take the game to us,” noted Webb. “They’re a tough squad from Memphis, physical team, not unlike the fine group we faced tonight. This is the playoffs. What anyone did in the regular season don’t mean a lot here, everyone’s got the same chance to win and advance. We just have to keep that in mind every time we step on the field.”