Entering Thursday night’s game, the Franklin Cougars were in must-win mode as they tried to hold off Eastwood for the final playoff spot in District 1-6A. Despite a penalty-filled first half, the Cougars used a strong running game and defensive effort to shut down Coronado 40-16 and win the West Side Bowl for the third year in a row.
“This win is huge. It’s big for our kids,” said head coach Daren Walker, “We’ve had a lot of injuries and obstacles to overcome this year but one thing about our kids at Franklin High School is that we work very hard and I’m just so happy for these kids and for our coaches.”
The Cougars got off to a fast start, going 70 yards in four plays just over a minute into the game when Kaleb Hatch found versatile playmaker Eric Phillips for a 28-yard touchdown to give the Cougars a 6-0 lead. Following a three and out, Hatch delivered another strike, this time finding receiver Luis Baca for 38 yards and a touchdown. In an unexpected twist, Coronado returned a fumble on the two-point try for two points of their own.
In the second quarter, Phillips found paydirt again as he ran 12 yards on the right side for a rushing touchdown that put Franklin up 19-2. He finished with 145 total yards on offense for the night and three total touchdowns.
“Our team has been looking forward to this game all season,” Phillips said, “It’s a team win tonight with all my brothers and I just try to ball out just like them.”
Another subplot of this game were the amount of penalties called. There were a combined 19 penalties for over 200 yards in the first half, and Franklin finished with 10 for 100.
The Cougars did clean it up after halftime, but Walker said that it’s something his team will have to address moving forward.
“I think we got a little sloppy at times but for the most part we kept our composure and in this rivalry game, we didn’t want to let things get out of control.”
Defensively, the Cougars limited the Thunderbirds rushing attack to just 80 yards on the night. Coronado entered Thursday averaging 180 yards rushing per game. Franklin also came up with an important fourth-down stop inside their own 10-yard line as Coronado threatened to score.
“Our defense played lights out tonight,” Walker said, “They played probably their best first half of the season. We were real concerned about the run but our kids stepped up and played well and we’re real pleased with that.”
After halftime, the Cougars maintained control adding a 4-yard run by Seth Dominguez in the third quarter. After a Coronado score and a failed onside kick, Phillips and Dominguez would add long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to put the Thunderbirds away.
Franklin moves to 4-5 on the year and 4-2 in District 1-6A. They take on Americas next Friday to close the regular season. Coronado falls to 2-7 overall and 1-5 in 1-6A. They will host Socorro in their season finale.