FRANKLIN, Ind. – The conference season kicked off on Saturday (Sept. 28) afternoon with a matchup between Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) co-champions from a year ago when Franklin welcomed Mount St. Joseph University to Faught Stadium.
The Grizzlies (1-3, 0-1 HCAC) struggled to move the ball early and the Lions (3-0, 1-0 (HCAC) capitalized with 29 first half points. The Grizzlies would rally back to get within two scores in the second half but the Lions finished off a 50-27 win, snapping a nine-game losing streak to Franklin.
"Despite the result I'm extremely proud of our guys," Head coach Mike Leonard said after the game. "We told the guys at halftime right after scoring a defensive touchdown that gave us a spark that we wanted our guys to fight all the way until the end. To their credit, they did just that and everyone played hard and fought until the end."
The Lions' defense held the Grizzlies without a first down until the second quarter. With time ticking down in the first half, Franklin got that spark from the defense when Brayton Shannon scooped up an MSJ fumble and rolled 75 yards to the house, cutting the deficit to 29-6 at the break.
Franklin continued to plug away, drawing within a pair of scores thanks to two Jacob Earl rushing touchdowns in the third quarter that made it 36-20 with 15 minutes to play. The Grizzlies added their final touchdown of the night when Brady Hale blocked a punt that twin brother Bryce Hale picked up and ran in for his first career touchdown.
Shannon was all over the field defensively for Franklin, recording a career-high 14 stops to go along with his first career touchdown. Freshman Aaron Black set a new season-best with six solo stops. For the second straight week, senior Jacob Ferguson picked off a pass, tying him for the team lead with JP Osafo with two INTs on the year.
Offensively, senior Robbie Strader went 19-for-42 through the air with 147 yards passing. Sophomore Bennett Beyl topped the Franklin receiving corps with three catches for 60 yards. Earl racked up 88 yards on 16 carries to go along with his two rushing touchdowns.
Franklin heads back out on the road next Saturday (Oct. 5), heading to Terre Haute, Ind. for a meeting with the Engineers of Rose-Hulman. Kick-off is set for 1:30 P.M.