Sep 06, 2018
The Opening Kick
The Franklin College football team hit the road for the first time in 2018 on Saturday night, heading north for a meeting with MIAA foe Albion College in the team's final non-conference game of the regular season. It is the start of a stretch that will see the Grizzlies play five of the next seven games away from Faught Stadium over the next two months.
Last Time Out
The regular season kicked off on a beautiful night at Faught Sadium last Saturday (Sept. 1), with the Grizzlies hosting Benedictine University. The Grizzlies jumped out to a lead on the first drive of the game and never looked back, taking a 55-38 win to open the year. Making his second career start under center, Braden Smith threw for 342 yards and the offense racked up 605 total on their way to victory. A complete recap is available on page 12 of the game notes.
Led by head coach Craig Rundle, the Britons are off to a 1-0 start of their own after an impressive showing in their season-opener against HCAC opponent Defiance College. The Britons torched the Yellow Jackets for 600 yards on their way to a 59-6 victory in the opener.
Quarterback Kyle Thomas led the charge offensively on Saturday, going 23-for-34 for 267 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in the win. Sam Blanzy came off the bench to go 6-for-9 for 98 yards and a score in relief. Eight different players recorded at least three carries on the night, with Doug Freeman leading the ground attack with 69 yards on nine carries and a pair of touchdowns.
Isaiah Gibson and Justin Thomas present a formidable pass-catching duo after both topped the 100-yard mark on opening day. Gibson hauled in six passes for 110 yards and a score while Thomas had 100 yards on six catches with a pair of touchdowns.
Defensively, the Britons sacked Defiance quarterbacks nine times on opening day, with three coming courtesy of Mitchell Arendsen. Albion forced a pair of Defiance turnovers and finished with 11 pass break-ups in the win.
A Total Team Effort
The Grizzlies put on a dominant display in their opening-night win over Benedictine, with every member of the roster getting in on the action. Offensviely, the Grizzlies surpassed 200 yards on the ground, a feat they accomplished three times in 2017. Nine different players had at least one carry with four different ball carriers surpassing 35 yards on the ground.
In the passing game, nine different players finished with at least one catch, with Reeder Pennell, Mickey Koczersut, Devin Parrish, Austin Grunden and Bobby Scaggs hauling in their first carrer receptions.
Defensively, 30 different players recorded a tackle, with both Dyllan Shelley and Rob Witham recording their first career INTs.
The chemistry between junior quarterback Braden Smith and senior wideout Brad Bonomini was on full display Saturday. Smtih completed nine of his 26 passes to Bonomini for 174 yards and three touchdowns, all new career-highs for the Grizzly pass catcher.
Through one week of play, the Grizzlies are tied with Mount St. Joseph at the top of the conference for most yards with 605 per game, and their 260 rushing yards has them all alone atop the HCAC rankings. Additionally, Bonomini leads the conference in catches and receiving yards after one week, and his three touchdowns are tied with Bluffton's Lucas Espitia for most after a week of play.
For the eighth consecutive year, the Grizzlies are the league coaches' pick to win the HCAC. After their ninth outright HCAC championship in the last 10 years in 2017, Franklin earned 87 points in the pre-season poll and six of the nine first-place votes.
Franklin head coach Mike Leonard enters Saturday's game just three wins away from matching legendary head coach Stuart "Red" Faught for the most coaching wins in program history with 120. The Grizzlies have been exceptionally dominant in HCAC play during Leonard's tenure, and are 86-5 against conference foes over the last 11 years.
Division III Leaders
In 2017, the Grizzlies boasted an impressive aerial attack that led the nation in passing yards per game with 407.1. Paired with a steady run game all year, Franklin would go on to lead the country in yards per game with 564.5.
Around the HCAC
The final week of non-conference play features all nine league teams in action around the region. Week three will mark the start of the HCAC schedule for all nine programs. This week's schedule is as follows:
Saturday, Sept. 8
Bluffton at Trine, 1 PM
Hope at Defiance, 1:30 PM
Thomas More at Hanover, 1:30 PM
Hiram at Earlham, 3 PM
MSJ @ Morehead St., 6 PM
Manchester at Alma, 6 PM
Indiana Wesleyan at Anderson, 7 PM
Rhodes at Rose-Hulman, 7 PM
Follow the Action Live
Grizzly fans that can't make the trip to Michigan can follow along with the action live online Saturday. Both live video and live stats will be provided by the Albion athletic communications department, and those links can be found at the top of the page. Additionally, all in-game updates will be provided by following the Grizzlies on Twitter @FCGrizathletics.