HANOVER, Ind. – With a conference championship and a spot in the D-III playoffs already wrapped up, the Franklin College football team still had plenty to play for in their regular season finale.
The Grizzlies had a chance to keep the coveted Victory Bell on Saturday afternoon against Hanover College. Franklin (8-2, 8-0 HCAC) did just that, rolling to a 56-14 win over the Panthers (4-6, 4-4 HCAC) for their 13th consecutive win in the 87th playing of the Victory Bell Classic.
Franklin finished the day with 618 yards of total offense, including a season-high 258 yards on the ground. Chase Burton finished 22-for-28 for 336 yards and five touchdown passes, doing most of his damage in the first half.
Four different Grizzlies recorded 30 yards or more on the ground, with Jacob Earl leading all FC ball carriers with 91 yards on six carries. The Franklin defense forced a season-high four turnovers on Saturday afternoon while holding Hanover to 368 yards of total offense.
Franklin took the ball to start the game and needed just five plays to put a crooked number on the board. Two plays after a 44-yard pass to Lee Wroblewski put the Grizzlies on the goal line, Burton connected with Tanner Wroblewski from a yard out to open the scoring.
It was the start of an offensive onslaught as the Grizzlies would find the end zone on each of their four first quarter possessions. After forcing a three-and-out on Hanover's first possession, Jordan Brown doubled the FC lead with a one-yard TD run. Burton would tack on touchdown passes to Brad Bonomini and Deontez Alexander later in the quarter to give Franklin a 28-7 lead after 15 minutes of play.
Franklin put together a near-perfect second quarter on both sides of the ball. The Grizzlies' defense forced three turnovers in the second period, getting interceptions from Jay McClain and Ryan Conner and a fumble recovery from Nathan Warman late in the half.
On the other side of the ball, Franklin added to their lead with two more Burton touchdown passes, one to Jacob Earl from 33 yards out and the other a 56-yard strike from Burton to Alexander. Burton was 20-for-25 for 311 yards and five scores in the opening half as Franklin took a 42-7 lead into the break.
With the game all but in hand, the Grizzlies turned to their ground game in the second half. After forcing a Hanover turnover on downs to open the second half, Kole Stogner stretched the FC lead to 49-7 with a 37-yard touchdown run with 6:13 to play in the third. Austin Grunden capped the scoring late in the fourth quarter with a one-yard scoring run, his first career touchdown.
Deontez Alexander had a game-high 123 yards receiving on four catches and his two touchdowns give him a Division III-leading 18 scores on the year. Lee Wroblewski had 74 yards on four catches while Tanner Wroblewski had a team-leading six grabs for 51 yards.
Warman and Austin Fleming tied for the lead on defense with 10 tackles each. Trace Rooks had a team-high five solo stops and seven tackles total. McClain, Conner and Chris Knight all picked off a pass for Franklin.
With the regular season behind them, the Grizzlies can turn their attention to the NCAA Division III playoffs next weekend. Franklin will learn who and where they play their first round game on Sunday night during the NCAA selection show, which will be aired at 5:30 p.m.