Charles City sends message, upsets No. 4 Franklin 44-41
Franklin’s Broncos lived up to expectations as the state’s number four Group A football team, opening a 21-0 first quarter lead over Charles City’s host Panthers. By halftime, the visitors led 33-16 and appeared on the way to ruining Charles City’s homecoming celebration.
But in building a 7-0 record, Franklin had not encountered a team as resilient — and talented — as Charles City. The Broncos learned that lesson in the second half.
Charles City shut down the vaunted Bronco running attack, allowing just one touchdown after the break. The hosts returned the second half kickoff for a score and quarterback Trevor Jones registered three of his four TDs as the Panthers recorded a shocking 44-41 upset.
The Oct. 22 result handed Charles City a 2-0 Tri-Rivers District record and upped its overall mark to 5-2, putting the Panthers on track for a Region A Division 1 playoff berth and a shot at their first ever Tri-Rivers title.
“We’ve got heart,” Jones said afterward, pointing to the Panthers’ second half comeback. “We said we were coming out in the second half and play with heart. We didn’t take a play off in the second half. We played smart.
“We were manning up,” he said. “We tightened up on defense, and we knew we could beat them.”
Running back Joseph Tabb, who spearheaded Charles City’s ground and pound offense, credited line blocking up front for the team’s success.
“They did their job tonight,” said the senior, who totaled 139 bruising yards on 26 carries. “If it wasn’t for the o-line, I don’t think we would have won.”
“It was a total team effort,” Jones chimed in. “We came out in the second half and played better than we have all year.”
That type of effort became necessary after Franklin threatened to turn the contest into a rout. Heavy doses of running back Martinez Hill, who ran for 103 yards and two TDs in the first quarter alone, helped the visitors mount their 21-0 lead.
Charles City’s offense showed signs of life after the initial Bronco onslaught, but for every Panther score, the visitors had an answer.
Jones’ first touchdown from four yards out, ending an 11-play, 51-yard march, got the hosts on the scoreboard early in the second period. Franklin, however, capitalized on a fumble recovery to bump its lead up to 27-8 with just 44 seconds left in the half.
A short kickoff gave Charles City excellent field position near midfield, and the Panthers did not waste the opportunity. Four plays later, Jones fired to Dominick Barbour out of the backfield, good for 26 yards and a TD with 11 seconds to go.
Franklin followed suit, thanks to Justin Grant’s kickoff return to the Panther 30 yard line. From there and with only one second showing on the clock, running back Tyrel Pope out-jumped a trio of Panther defenders in the end zone to haul in Trey Kigler’s TD pass for a 33-16 halftime lead.
The Panthers shook off the deflating turn of events, and Avery Jones’ second half kickoff return helped. Jones gathered in the ball at his 29 yard line, cut across the field, and sprinted past defenders on a 71-yard jaunt to the end zone.
Buoyed by the quick score, Charles City’s defense stopped the next Bronco series on downs at the Franklin 40 yard line. Trevor Jones (21 carries, 153 yards) then engineered a seven-play march climaxed by his 14-yard burst around the right side to narrow the gap to 33-30.
Franklin responded with Grant racing 63 yards on an end around to help put the Broncos up by 11. But moments later, the Panthers were back within three on Jones’ 56-yard run and conversion toss to tight end Dominic Jones.
Early in the fourth quarter, though, Franklin mounted a drive aimed at putting the game out of reach. The Broncos reached the Panther 30 yard line from where Hill burst up the middle for an apparent touchdown run. But Barbour, now at linebacker, chased down Hill, stripping the ball just before the Franklin back broke the goal line plane. Barbour fell on the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.
The turnover led to Charles City’s game-winning drive. First, Tabb rumbled 34 yards into Franklin territory. Then the Panthers erased six minutes off the clock on 12 more plays climaxed by Jones’ keeper around the left side.
Franklin still had 3:45 to work with, but failed to net a first down. Fourth and six became fourth and 11 as noise from the Charles City crowd forced a false start. Then the defense broke up Kigler’s fourth down pass, enabling the Panthers to run the final 1:41 off the clock.
“We’ve got a bunch of young men who know what it is to play team ball and play with character,” said Panther head coach Steward Greene. “At halftime, we told them defense is going to win this game.
“The defense actually picked us up,” he said. “The defense really did step up the entire second half. We could move the ball all night long. All the defense had to do was stop them.”