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Canadian Edges Franklin in Thrilling Title Game

Extra points have been a hot topic during the first two days of the UIL State Championship Games. They were in the spotlight again Thursday afternoon as Franklin and Canadian traded late scores as they battled for the 3A Division II Championship.

Franklin brought out the trickeration with just over a minute to go as Seth Spiller hit Braden Smith on a halfback pass for a 37-yard touchdown. However, the extra point hit the upright, meaning Franklin only led 34-28.

That gave Canadian the opportunity it needed. Tight end Reagan Cochran got behind the defense and Canadian quarterback Josh Culwell put his throw on the money, delivering a 52-yard strike to tie the game up with just 28 seconds to go. Edgar Salazar booted the ensuing extra point through the uprights, giving Canadian a 35-34 lead it wouldn’t relinquish as Franklin quarterback Marcus Wade was sacked on his Hail Mary attempt.

“One thing I really respect about our kids is that they’ve been real resilient this year,” Koetting said when asked about how his team responded to Franklin’s late touchdown. “If something bad happens during the game, they don’t get too high or too low. They just felt like we could get that ball down there and score and they did, so I’m very happy for that.”

Culwell came up with big plays all game long, earning Offensive MVP as he threw for 196 yards and four touchdowns and added 120 yards on the ground.

“The play-calling is outstanding here in Canadian. The best coaching staff I could ask for,” Culwell said. “Coach Koetting said he was going to let me loose a little bit last week and that’s what he’s doing and it was a lot of fun tonight.”

Canadian looked like it might run away with it early on as Culwell hit Gary Anderson for two touchdowns in the first quarter, one from 65 yards and another from four yards out.

However, Franklin responded on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter as Marcus Wade hit Malcolm Murphy on a wheel route for a 59-yard touchdown to cut Canadian’s lead to 14-7.

Murphy was a sparkplug all night for Franklin, finishing with 103 yards receiving and 51 yards rushing.

Canadian restored its two touchdown advantage to open the third quarter as Culwell delivered a beautiful floated pass to his receiver Twister Kelton for a 34-yard touchdown following a Franklin fumble.

Franklin came up with some clutch plays after that. Seth Spiller had a 53-yard touchdown run and a 3-yard touchdown scamper either side of a huge fourth down stop by the Lion defense on their own two yard line. That tied the game at 21 with eight minutes left and set up the grandstand finale.

Canadian running back Hayze Hufstedler had been held in check most of the game, but he had an answer for Franklin’s comeback as he broke free up the middle for a 47-yard score with just over six minutes to go to put Canadian up 28-21.

“It was super physical in the trenches and they did a good job of keying me and filling holes. But my o-line did a great job and never gave up,” Hufstedler said. “On that long run [the 47-yard touchdown], just great blocking, good play call and finally, the safety went the wrong way or something and we broke one to the end zone.”

Spiller answered yet again for Franklin, barreling in from one yard out to tie the game back at 28 with just under four minutes to go, setting up the two late scores and the fateful missed extra point.

Spiller had a big night, rushing for 137 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries, while also adding the passing score.

“Seth is one special player. He’s a tough kid. He’s a leader. He’s a true example of leaving everything he’s got on the field every single game,” Franklin head coach Mark Fannin said. “I couldn’t be more proud of Seth Spiller.”

For Franklin, Fannin’s first season in charge ends with an impressive 13-2 record and a memorable state title appearance.

“I got a special group of kids that do not have a quitting bone in them. They’ve shown that week after week this year,” Fannin said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these kids, of the effort they put in and that no-lose mentality when they step on the field each and every week. That was a tough loss. It’s been a fun journey.”

Canadian, meanwhile will bring home its fifth state title overall and first since 2015.

“Our whole deal was we wanted to get to the state championship game, but we just didn’t want to be satisfied with just getting to the state championship game. We needed to win this state championship,” Koetting said. “State championships are hard to get, so I’m just so proud of these guys for making that happen. I know the community of Canadian is very excited to have a new state championship.”

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