Moore’s four lead Wildcats to Keg victory
CONNERSVILLE – Senior Jared Moore scored four times and sophomore quarterback Wyatt Bowling put the cherry on top with a late 78-yard romp as Franklin County’s Wildcats retrieved the Water Keg from rival Connersville with a 35-26 comeback win Friday.
The game’s opening kick was pushed back an hour and teams were allowed frequent water breaks due to an excessive heat warning. The visiting Cats took even longer to warm up as the offense secured just one first down prior to the team’s second possession of the third quarter, though just trailing by one score (20-14).
“We just gotta’ grow,” said Wildcat head coach Wes Gillman. “I told our kids after the game how proud I was. I’ll be happy the rest of the year if we just compete. If we play hard like we have the first two weeks, that’s all we can ask.”
After a turnover on downs by the Spartans, Moore cranked out a 30-yard run on first down. Following an FC holding call, Moore added a 22-yard scamper into the red zone. Sophomore Keegan Clark busted 15 yards to get the Cats near the end zone, where Moore scored his third touchdown of the game after a CHS timeout. The point after by Hunter Weartz broke a brief 20-20 tie.
The Spartans gained one first down on the ensuing drive but came up short on a 4th-and-5 play as FC took over at the Cats’ 39-yard line.
Moore promptly ran for 24 tough yards into CHS territory. As the fourth quarter dawned, the senior broke off another 27 yards to the Spartans’ 5. FC opted to feed the beast again, and he obliged with his fourth score from five yards out. Weartz’s kick put the guests up eight with about a full quarter left.
“We came into the week preaching physicality and toughness,” said Gillman. “We knew the more physical team would win the game, and that’s what happened. Jared ran extremely hard, and our O-line blocked our run plays exactly like they should probably 90% of the time. Wyatt had some difficulty getting going and made some sophomore mistakes but also had a big run to put the game away.”
Connersville had something left in the tank and Micah Buchanan, the Spartans’ elusive and speedy back who had earlier burned FC’s defense for two long TD runs, returned the kickoff all the way to the Cats’ 36. After two plays for a net loss of one yard, the lights went out at Spartan Stadium which brought a delay of about three minutes.
The issue resolved, Buchanan gained a first on a 4th-and-short play. Later, he set up 1st-and-goal with a 12-yard burst to the 9. Three plays later, Spartan senior QB Kaleb Caldwell punched it in from the 1. The hosts needed a successful conversion play for the tie; Buchanan got the call but was stuffed inches from the goal line.
A touchback put FC at the 20 to start the next possession. After Moore’s 2-yard jaunt, Bowling made some initial moves and was off to the races for what proved to be the last straw for CHS. Freshman Parker Flanigan had a nice run to get the Spartans across midfield, but it was soon 4th-and-8. A couple timeouts later – one by CHS, then a counter by FC – a pass to Buchanan was shy of the first-down marker and FC was able to run out the clock.
Connersville opened the game with a 70-yard, 9-play scoring drive. Buchanan ran for 58 yards, but the Spartans went to the air on 4th-and-5 from the 7; Caldwell connected for a rollout TD to his tight end. Breck Bohman blocked Nolan Shawl’s PAT attempt to keep the game at 6-0.
Both offenses then went three-and-out, though on a Spartan punt attempt Bohman snaked through and batted the ball back toward the CHS goal. From the 1, Moore ran in and Weartz booted FC into the lead by one.
On the first play of the second quarter, Buchanan took a 3rd-and-5 handoff around the left end and went untouched for 58 yards into the end zone. After a three-and-out by the Cats, Buchanan did it again on first down from the CHS 44; the 56-yard sprint with no defenders’ paws and Shawl’s kick made it 20-7.
Late in the half, FC (1-1, 1-0) put together its first drive of substance. Starting past the 50 after a punt, Moore went for 28 yards on a 3rd-down play. Bowling completed a short pass to Kayden Kerr in the red zone and Moore scored on 4th-and-2 from the 3.
Buchanan had over 250 yards rushing but just 61 after intermission.
“We started doing the things we worked on all week,” Gillman explained. “That first half we had a few players out of position, not playing their responsibility in the run game. When you face a running team like Connersville with a lot of misdirection and option, you have to be gap disciplined. We recognized those mistakes and fixed them.
“Coach Adam Kelly Sr. does a great job of putting our kids in the right position to be successful, we just executed that plan better as the game went on,” continued the coach. “We’re very young at a lot of positions and sometimes you have to fail before you can succeed.”
Moore was just over the 150-yard mark to go with 4 TDs and Bowling’s breakout run boosted his rushing numbers for the evening. Jack Dirkhising, Luke Halpin and Ben Becker were in on double digit tackles.
“We have kids in key roles who quite honestly aren’t ready for Friday nights yet, but they’re playing extremely hard, and they’ll grow as the season progresses,” Gillman added.
Friday is a big night in the tradition of FC football. For the first time ever, the home team will be competing on artificial turf as a revamping of Wildcat Field was completed recently. Rushville provides the opposition.
“Should be a fun night,” the coach confirmed. “The field looks incredible. I think everyone will be proud of what our administration has been able to bring to our community. Rushville is a game we can win. Like the first two weeks, if we play hard and physical and limit mistakes, we can be successful.”
C – #9 7-yard pass from Caldwell, 6:13. Kick blocked.
FC – Moore 1-yard run, 1:29. Weartz kick.
C – Buchanan 58-yard run, 11:49. Shawl kick.
C – Buchanan 56-yard run, 9:31. Shawl kick.
FC – Moore 3-yard run, 1:27. Weartz kick.
FC – Moore 2-yard run, 4:52. Weartz kick.
FC – Moore 5-yard run, 11:22. Weartz kick.
CHS – Caldwell 1-yard run, 5:53. Run failed.
FC – Bowling 78-yard run, 4:56. Weartz kick.
Franklin Co. – Rushing: Moore 13-158, Bowling 7-96, Clark 5-28, Carter Dozier 1-1. Passing: Bowling 3-6-36. Receiving: Kayden Kerr 2-20, Moore 1-16. (From MaxPreps)
Conn. – Rushing: Buchanan 28-257, Flanigan 5-19, Caldwell 6-(-1), Draiden Perez 6-5. Passing: Caldwell 2-3-10. Receiving: Buchanan 1-3, #9 1-7.
Total yards: FC 319, C 290
Rushing: FC 283, C 280
Passing: FC 36, C 10
1st downs – FC 6, CHS 8
Penalties – FC 8-68, CHS 10-62.5
Fumbles – FC 0, CHS 0