CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. – The Franklin Grizzlies kicked off the 2017 campaign the same way they did the 2016 season – with a high-scoring affair against a nationally-ranked Thomas More College squad.
Just as they did a year ago, the Grizzlies battled valiantly to close the gap in the second half after falling behind early. But there was no comeback in store this time around as the No. 19-ranked Saints ground game proved to be too much to overcome in a 47-37 Thomas More win.
Senior quarterback Chase Burton went 24-for-37 for 315 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. His favorite target of the day was fellow senior Deontez Alexander, who grabbed six balls for 133 yards and three scores. Senior Lee Wroblewski hauled in three passes for 56 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"I'm so pleased with the way that our team never gave up today," Head coach Mike Leonard said. "This game was so similar to last year's game and we kept telling our guys that we can come back and we know that we can come back. Today, it just wasn't meant to be. We ran out of time and all we can do is tip our cap to the victors."
The Saints forced a pair of three-and-outs from the Grizzlies to open the game and the Thomas More offense capitalized with touchdowns on each of their first two drive. Franklin turned to the big play to get on the board when Burton hit Alexander for a 60-yard score to get the Griz on the board late in the first quarter.
But the Saints answered with back-to-back scores from Hjavier Pitts to make it 27-7 midway through the second quarter, giving him three first half touchdowns.
Burton and Alexander connected for a 30-yard score on fourth down less than two minutes later to chip away at the lead. After 30 minutes, Franklin trailed 30-14.
Franklin's first two drives of the second half netted touchdowns as Burton and Wroblewski connected on passes of 3- and 45-yards to bring Franklin within 40-29. Alexander hauled in his third score late, but the efficient Thomas More run game was able to bleed out the clock down the stretch.
Jacob Earl led the Grizzlies on the ground with 37 yards on five carries while catching five balls for 25 yards out of the backfield.
Thomas More gained 351 yards on the ground, 198 coming on Pitts' 28 carries. Saints' quarterback Brenan Kuntz picked up another 114 yards on 19 carries while going 14-for-22 in the air for 190 yards and a pair of scores.
Franklin will make their 2017 home debut one week from today when they welcome in NCAA Division I FCS non-scholarship Butler Bulldogs to Faught Stadium for the fourth night game ever at Franklin College. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m.