Posted: Oct 04, 2018
The Opening Kick
Coming off a thrilling win to close out the month of September, the Franklin College football team opens October with a showdown against the Defiance Yellow Jackets. It begins a stretch that will see the Grizzlies play three of their next four games away from the friendly confines of Faught Stadium.
Last Time Out
One week ago, the Grizzlies welcomed Rose-Hulman to Faught Stadium for homecoming day and the Franklin faithful were treated to another classic between the two rivals.
After falling behind by two touchdowns in the first half, the Grizzlies battled back to take the lead early in the second half. After a wild fourth quarter that saw both teams take and lose the lead, Franklin got the go-ahead touchdown with 21 seconds to play on a 31-yard pass from Braden Smith to Ben Fleet on 4th-and-10, sending Franklin to a 42-39 win.
Fleet was a force all afternoon, racking up 235 yards on 10 catches with a pair of touchdowns. Braden Smith threw for 438 yards and three scores and David Masayile picked off two passes deep in Franklin's territory in the first half, keeping the deficit manageable.
A complete recap is available on page 12 of the game notes.
The Yellow Jackets enter Saturday's meeting in search of their first win of the season following a loss to Anderson two weeks ago. Defiance is led by first-year head coach Manny Matsakis, and will be hosting the Grizzlies on their homecoming day.
Sophomore Logan Mico has taken the bulk of the snaps under center for the Yellow Jackets this year, completing 42.4% of his passes for 600 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions. Freshman Ryan Freeman has split time with Mico under center, throwing for 130 yards and one score spread over three games. Freeman is listed as the starter for Saturday's game.
Senior running back Corey Bennett has been the team's workhorse in the backfield, totaling 232 yards and one score over four games. On the outside, junior wideout Jason Santora and junior tight end Jacob Vorce are tied for the team lead with 16 catches and two touchdowns each. Vorce has accumulated 268 yards receiving while Santora leads the wideouts with 210 yards. Senior wide receiver Nate Roberts leads the team with 280 all-purpose yards.
On defense, senior linebacker Jalin Nealy leads all players with 46 tackles, ranking second in the conference with 11.5 stops per game. Nealy is currently tied for the team lead with three sacks and leads the defensive unit with a pair of interceptions. Steven Lucas ranks second on the team and fifth in the league with 9.3 tackles per game. Brian Taborn Jr. is tied with Nealy for the team lead with three sacks.
Player of the Week
After his breakout performance on Saturday, senior wideout Ben Fleet collected his first career HCAC Offensive Player of the Week award and earned a spot on D3Football's Team of the Week. The Indianapolis-native set new career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns in the win over Rose-Hulman.
The Franklin offense has been powered by the trio of Braden Smith, Bradn Bonomini and Ben Fleet this year, and each player sits near the top of the conference rankings coming into this week. Smith's 371.5 yards per game through is tops in the conference and his 14 touchdown passes ranks second in the league. Bonomini tops all receivers with 146.5 yards per game with Fleet ranking third at 111.0 yards per contest.
Earl of Rushing
Franklin running back Jacob Earl has been dangerous every time he has touched the ball in 2018, recording over 100 yards from scrimmage in all four games. Earl comes into this weekend leading the league in yards per carry (6.94 yards) while ranking second in rushing yards (430), touchdowns (7) and yards per game (107.5).
A Collective Effort
On defense, 10 different Grizzlies have already reached double-digit tackles through three games. Senior linebacker Austin Fleming tops the squad with 31 tackles, 19 coming of the solo variety. Brayton Shannon has made the most of his first year as a starter, racking up 23 stops so far. David Masayile (22), John McKinney (20) and Logan Hale (20) have all hit the 20-tackle milestone this year.
Since the 2007 season, the Grizzlies have been dominant against the rest of the HCAC, going 88-5 over that span while claiming 10 of the last 11 outright conference championships.
Franklin head coach Mike Leonard enters Saturday's game just one win away from matching legendary head coach Stuart "Red" Faught for the most coaching wins in program history.
Around the HCAC
Conference play continues this week with four games taking place around the league. Anderson is the lone team on a bye in week six. The other three games of the week are as follows:
Earlham at Hanover, 1:30 p.m.
Manchester at Mount St. Joseph, 1:30 p.m.
Bluffton at Rose-Hulman, 2:00 p.m.
Follow the Action Live
Fans can watch the game live or follow live stats with live links provided by the Defiance College athletic department. In-game updates will be provided on Twitter by following @FCGrizAthletics.