By ZACH HARMUTH Photos by KINDELL MOORE
Thanks in large part to Mount Juliet Christian quarterback Alex Pitman, Franklin Road Academy is still looking for its first win of the year.
Pitman had two touchdowns on the ground- one from a spectacular 99-yard scramble- in the Saints 21-7 beating of the Panthers.
FRA, off to a 0-4 (0-2 DII-A) start after remaining undefeated until the Division II-A state championship quarterfinals last year, was outplayed by the rushing attack of Mt. Juliet Christian, which didn’t throw a pass all night.
The Panthers allowed 356 total yards, all on the ground.
“We are just not playing well as a team; we have a few guys doing there job and a few others guys not doing their job, and that is just not the way to beat teams,” FRA head coach Bill Whittemore said. “We just have to play the course and keep preaching details to our guys. Some breaks didn’t go our way which has been the case all year. But we have to make our own breaks if we are going to punch through it.”
The game opened up with the teams trading long drives. First MJC drove down to the FRA 12, but elected to go for it on fourth after being stopped three times.
The Panthers made one more stop and, after taking over, used most of the rest of the first quarter on a run-heavy drive, which Larry Wilhoite capped with a 5-yard end-around score with 1:05 left.
The Saints came right back with a long, run-heavy drive of their own, starting on their own 24. They capped the near five-minute drive with a 14-yard run by Preston Sloan (8 carries, 49 yards, TD), tying the game at seven with 8:14 left in the half.
Pitman ran a quarterback sweep to the right side line and took it 99 yards to the house for a 14-7 lead with less than a minute left in the first half.
“I knew they would be keying in on our running back, and on the play before they were all slanting down, and coach just had a good game plan and told me to just be an athlete,” said Pitman, who finished with 5 rushes for 145 yards and 2 TDs. “So I pulled it, to see what I could get and I got great blocking on the edge, and, you know, well, tried to get to the end zone.”
The Saints (4-1) never let up after that.
After the Panthers received the ball to start the third quarter, they were stopped on three runs before a punt by Ryan Madondo pushed MJC inside its own ten.
The field position didn’t matter, as a 36-yard run by Darius Hylick (10 rushes, 63 yards) ended with a 15-yard horse collar penalty, bringing the ball to the Panther 22 with 8:48 to play in the third.
Then Pitman struck again, this time running it in from 13 yards out, to put the Saints up 21-7 halfway through the third.
A last chance, with 1:45 left in the game and MJC trying to burn clock, Pitman fumbled at the Saints own 34.
On the next play, however, FRA quarterback Eric Stoxstill-Diggs threw an interception, giving the Saints a first down, as the game’s only turnovers came on back-to-back plays. With no timeouts left, FRA could only watch as time ran out.