When Manchester visits Faught Stadium today, the Franklin College football team won’t be out to simply win.
It plans to make a statement.
“We don’t want any close games,” junior running back Kole Stogner said. “We’re the best team in the conference. We don’t want to have any close games.”
What the Grizzles want is to set a tone for rest of the season.
One of three unbeaten teams in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, Franklin (2-2, 2-0 HCAC) can control its own destiny in the race for the league title from here on out — beginning with today’s opponent.
Manchester also is undefeated in conference play. The Spartans (2-1, 2-0 HCAC) are coming off a 44-31 home win against Mount St. Joseph and are regarded among Franklin’s chief challengers for the league championship.
That’s why the Grizzlies, who are coming off a 49-31 at Bluffton, regard the showdown as critical.
“This is a must-win, that’s what’s going through my mind,” Franklin coach Mike Leonard said. “They’re playing well and believe in themselves, and we’re playing well and believe in ourselves.
“I expect a great game.”
Kogner expects a great game, too — for the Grizzlies.
Having cleaned up most of the mistakes that resulted in a pair of season-opening nonconference losses, the Grizzlies enter today with restored confidence and a solid sense of purpose. They have scored a combined 105 points in their previous two games and are determined to win what would be a sixth consecutive HCAC championship.
Although a title won’t be won today, the Grizzlies can stay in the driver’s seat with a win. Rose-Hulman, which is 1-0 in the HCAC, is the only other unbeaten team in the conference.
Franklin’s plan is to run the HCAC table and not rely on another team losing to secure the title.
“We don’t want to let a game slip away. We want to win it outright,” said Stogner, a Greenwood graduate. “(Today) is a game we need to win. It’s the way we approach every game.
“Right now, everything’s been clicking on both sides of the ball, and special teams. That’s what we have to keep doing.”
What: Manchester University (2-1, 2-0 HCAC) at Franklin College (2-2, 2-0 HCAC)
When: 1:30 p.m. today
Last year’s meeting: Franklin won 29-28 in 2014
All-time series: Franklin leads 36-20