After shutting out West Gadsden for nearly the entire game, Franklin County withstood a scoring barrage in the last two minutes to secure a 16-14 homecoming victory Friday night.
After Seahawk senior Skyler Hutchinson barreled in from the 1 yard line in the opening play of the fourth quarter, Franklin County nursed a 16-0 lead for most of the final quarter until West Gadsden put together the aerial game that had eluded them all night.
With three minutes left, West Gadsden quarterback Dionte Jackson threw a 35-yard pass to Taderrius Knight, and then followed it up with a seven-yard toss, to bring the Panthers into the Seahawks red zone.
A minute later, Jackson connected on a 12-yard-touchdown pass. But the two-point conversion failed, and Franklin County looked to be sitting on a secure 16-6 lead.
Seahawk senior lineman Chase Golden fell on the onside kick at midfield, but the Seahawks senior fullback Ladarius Rhodes coughed up the football a play later.
The Panthers took advantage, and with less than a minute left, Jackson nailed a 20-yard touchdown pass. They looked to kick the extra point, but faked instead and were successful on the two-point conversion to trail only by two, 16-14, with time remaining.
But, for the second time in as many minutes, Golden pounced on a ricocheting onside kick and the Seahawks ran out the clock, for their second-ever homecoming win.
“You wouldn’t think a 6’1” 300-pounder is going to come up with a great athletic play there,” said Wright. “I tip my hat to the big lineman there.
“We’re one play away from getting the shutout,” said Seahawks coach Josh Wright, whose Seahawks went to 2-5, and 1-2 in 1A District 4 play.
“They got the two little nuggets they wanted, two great play calls, but that’s’ football,” he said. “They got a knack for what we were doing, they busted a gap two times. We should have saw it coming, that was on us.
“Once you lose mo (momentum) and once they got mo, they had some confidence,” Wright said. “But we were able to stiffen.”
The Seahawks amassed 242 yards on the ground, led by Hutchinson, who carried the ball 20 times for 90 yards, and caught the only pass of the night from junior Dwayne Griggs, for 20 yards on the first scoring drive.
“We were able to run the ball effectively early,” said Wright. “I don’t think we made many mistakes.”
Griggs got the Seahawks on the scoreboard with a 22-yard rushing score with three minutes left in the first quarter. He finished with 88 yards on 19 carries, and shared offensive player of the game honors with Hutchison.
“We did it. We came in as one, as a team,” said Griggs, nursing a wrist injury after the game.
Rhodes added 59 yards on 12 carries, and was defensive player of the game, leading with seven tackles, two for a loss, two hurries, and a sack.
Sophomore Cole Wheeler had a crucial interception for the Seahawks, stopping a Panther scoring drive on the Franklin County 35, and running it to the West Gadsden 35 with three minutes left in the third quarter. Griggs and Hutchison also each tallied an interception.
Wright also cited Mercury Wynn for his defensive effor5t and credited the perimeter players for shutting down the Panthers.
Senior Zach Howze, who was one-of-two kicking extra points, nailed the Seahawks first field goal of the season, a 25-yarder with a minute left in the first half.
Senior punter Dan Carrino, who kicked three times for 67 yards, was honored at halftime by being selected homecoming king by his classmates, His counterpart as homecoming queen was Shelbi Myers, with Chena Segree, Emily Cash, Karlie Tucker and Hannah Oxendine serving as her court.
Male senior representatives also included Hutchinson, Jeff Murray, Elisha Patriotis and Chase Golden.
Junior representatives included Deborah Dempsey, Ally Millender and Jessica Shields, as well as Logan McLeod, James Newell and Cameron White.
Sophomore reps were Zoie Lance, Kelsey Shuler, Brandon Cash and Kelsey Jones, and freshman reps were Jaylynn Lyston and River Banks.
Named by the judges in the afternoon’s homecoming parade was the senior class float, with the sophomore class of 2015 taking second, the junior class of 2014 third and the sophomores fourth.
The Seahawks travel to district rival Blountstown this Friday night.