RECAP | Earl's Four-Touchdown Performance Helps Guide Grizzlies to HCAC-Opening Win

Photo courtesy of Derek Cox
Photo courtesy of Derek Cox

ANDERSON, Ind. – With their non-conference schedule in the rear-view mirror, the Franklin College football team turned their attention to Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) play on Saturday (Sept. 15) with a showdown against the Anderson Ravens.

The Grizzlies' (2-1, 1-0 HCAC) offense was dominant once again, racking up nearly 600 yards of total offense on their way to a 51-27 win over the Ravens (0-3, 0-1 HCAC). The Franklin ground game turned in their most impressive effort of the season, recording a season-high 255 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

Junior running back Jacob Earl had a big day for the Grizzlies, rushing for 92 yards and three touchdowns while catching three passes for 52 yards and a score. The Tangier, Ind.-native matched the single-game record for touchdowns for the second time in his career, the last coming on Oct. 7, 2017 in a game against Earlham.

For the third straight game, the Grizzlies got the ball first and marched right down the field for the opening score. Facing a third-and-long, Braden Smith found Earl on a screen pass, and the junior halfback would do the rest of the work, marching 44 yards into the end zone for a 7-0 lead just 2:38 into the game.

The Grizzlies would add another score with 5:03 left in the first quarter, when Smith lofted a perfect pass into the arms of Ben Fleet in the back of the end zone for a 30-yard score and a 14-0 lead.

Anderson followed up with a touchdown to cut the lead in half, but Franklin would answer with back-to-back drives that resulted in a 27-yard Carter Brown field goal and a five-yard touchdown run from Earl to make it 24-7 with four minutes to go in the half. Earl would find pay dirt for the third time late in the first half, scoring from two yards out to spot the Grizzlies a 31-14 lead at the break.

The Ravens found the end zone on the first possession of the second half, but Franklin would rattle off three consecutive touchdowns before the end of the period to put the game out of reach. The first came on a 34-yard hook-up from Smith to Joey Siderewicz, followed by rushing touchdowns from Earl and Austin Grunden.

Smith had another strong game under center, going 21-of-33 for 326 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Fleet was his top target on the afternoon, hauling in seven passes for 83 yards. Brad Bonomini led the team with 95 yards receiving on four catches.

On defense, Austin Fleming led the Grizzlies with eight tackles, followed by seven stops from Brayton Shannon. Zak Prater and Lendon Underwood had one sack each, while Alex Frey recorded his first career interception.

The Grizzlies will be back in action in two weeks, when they face off with Rose-Hulman on Saturday, Sept. 29 for the annual homecoming game. Kick-off from Faught Stadium is set for 1:30 p.m.