RECAP | Dominant Start, Potent Aerial Attack Key Grizzlies' Win Over Bluffton

Deontez Alexander (Photo courtesy of Phil Smith)
Deontez Alexander (Photo courtesy of Phil Smith)

BLUFFTON, Ohio – For the first time in conference play, the Franklin College football team hit the road for a critical showdown with the Bluffton Beavers.

In a battle of teams picked to finish in the top-three in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC), the Grizzlies (2-2, 2-0 HCAC) got off to a fast start and put the game out of reach early. Franklin found the end zone on each of their first two drives, which set the tone for a 59-30 win.

Senior Chase Burton had his biggest game of the year in the air, going 22-for-32 for 453 yards a five touchdowns to five different receivers. For the Grizzlies, it was a true test for their team on a hot day at Alumni Field, one they passed with flying colors.

"Our conditioning really helped us out today," Head coach Mike Leonard said. "It was really hot out on that turf and our guys battled through it and never complained. Both sides of the ball were great from the opening kickoff. The offense wasted no time scoring first and our defense kept shutting them down and giving the ball back to our offense. Everyone in the lineup played a major part in this win today and that's what we wanted to see."

Franklin got the ball first and wasted no time finding the end zone. Just 71 seconds into the game, the Grizzlies hit pay dirt when Jordan Brown scored from two yards out. After forcing a Bluffton punt, the Grizzlies went on an 11-play march that culminated with a 24-yard strike from Burton to Lee Wroblewski that made it 14-0 less than eight minutes into the game.

Two straight Bluffton scores cut the lead to five early in the second quarter, but that was as close as the Beavers would get the rest of the afternoon. Franklin closed out the half with an 18-yard TD pass from Burton to Tanner Wroblewski and another Brown touchdown run right before the half that gave the Grizzlies a 28-9 lead at the intermission.

Burton turned to the deep ball early in the second half to extend Franklin's lead. On the team's first drive of the third quarter, Burton found Deontez Alexander on a 52-yard touchdown connection. On the team's next drive, Burton found Brad Bonomini for a 45-yard score. That gives the Grizzlies 10 touchdown passes of 25 yards or more on the year.

On the Grizzlies' first play of the fourth quarter, Burton hit Ben Fleet for his fifth and final touchdown pass of the day. Fleet would catch another touchdown pass later in the fourth, a 15-yard strike from Braden Smith to close out the scoring.

Franklin finished with a season-high 586 yards of total offense. Nine different Franklin receivers had at least one catch on the day, with Alexander's six catches for 140 yards leading all players. Brown finished with a team-high 14 carries for 41 yards and his second straight two-score game. Braden Smith led the Grizzlies with 63 yards rushing, which included a career-best 49-yard scamper late in the game.

Senior Nathan Warman had a team-high 10 tackles on the day, a number that was highlighted by a season-high seven solo tackles. The Grizzlies forced two turnovers on the day, courtesy of Trace Rooks and Levi Schwartz recording their first career interceptions.

The Grizzlies will be back in action in one week, when they welcome Manchester to Faught Stadium for the team's annual Pediatric Cancer Awareness Day. Kickoff for the Sept. 30 showdown is set for 1:30 p.m.