Grizzlies earn sixth straight HCAC crown

With a 35-7 win Saturday against visiting Defiance, the Franklin College football team earned its sixth straight Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship.

And with it, the Grizzlies clinched their sixth straight automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Franklin was assured of the HCAC title when second-place Rose-Hulman lost to Mt. St. Joseph. The Grizzlies will wrap up the regular season in the Victory Bell Classic at Hanover on Saturday.

Playing Defiance on Senior Day, the Grizzlies raced to a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back. Sophomore quarterback Chase Burton fueled the offensive charge with a season- and career-high 474 passing yards and four touchdowns. He also had a rushing touchdown.

In nine starts, Burton has eclipsed the 300 passing yards in all but two games.

The Grizzlies (7-2, 7-0) rolled up 574 yards of total offense compared to Defiance’s 149.

Burton’s first-half passing blitz included a 47-yard touchdown pass to junior Kole Stogner; a 15-yard scoring pass to sophomore Lee Wroblewski; and a 54-yard touchdown strike to senior Kendal Butler.

Burton added one more touchdown in the second half with a 56-yard pass to senior wide receiver Mason Deal.

Butler, who had a game-high 10 receptions for 143 yards, said the Franklin College football experience has been more than fulfilling.

“The memories I have here have just been amazing,” he said. “I can’t really put into words how great this place has been to me.”

Franklin coach Mike Leonard applauded the team effort had special praise for a senior class that has won 30 of 31 HCAC games the past four years.

“We never want to take anything for granted,” Leonard said. “The way this group performs has all of our younger guys following in their footsteps. They’ve bought into our program.”

Defensively, senior Eli Moore had a team-high eight tackles. Senior linebackers Jeremiah Windell and Lucas Windell finished with seven and five tackles, respectively.