After doing everything it could do to bottle up Mitchell Burton in the first half, Franklin committed the cardinal sin on the second-half kickoff.
The Grizzly Cubs kicked to Burton.
Eighty-eight yards later, the Columbus North speedster was in the end zone. That broke open a close game and sent the Class 6A No. 10 Bull Dogs on their way to a 52-7 season-opening victory.
“I was watching their kicker while they were practicing, and I knew it would be coming to my side, so I was just ready for it,” Burton said. “I knew I had to make a play.”
North scored 28 points in the first nine minutes of the second half to turn a 10-0 lead into a 38-0 advantage. Triston Perry threw touchdown passes of 49 and 6 yards to Jaylen Flemmons, and Burton finally broke loose for a 52-yard score for turn the game into a rout.
Burton, who was limited to four yards on seven carries in first half, added a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The Miami (Ohio) recruit finished with 137 yards on 15 carries.
“It was very frustrating, but we knew they would come out and try to stop the run,” Burton said. “We just had to figure it out at halftime and get it going.”
Franklin actually controlled most of the first half. The Grizzly Cubs held the Bull Dogs without a first down on their first three series.
After the Franklin took the opening kickoff, it ran the first six plays in its own territory. After that, the next 40 plays came in North territory.
But on the next play, with the Bull Dogs having a first down at midfield, Perry found J.D. Harris over the middle. Harris broke a tackle at the 30 and outran the defense to the end zone to put North on the board.
The Bull Dogs then caught a break on the next series when Franklin snapped the ball over the head of punter Spencer Downhour. Downhour fell on the ball at the 15 for a 21-yard loss, and North turned that into a 25-yard field goal from Mark Salle-Tabor with 55 seconds left in the half.
“We were disappointed,” North coach Tim Bless said. “We thought we came out a little big sluggish. But you have to give credit where credit is due. Franklin came out with a game plan and executed it with all they had and played us tooth and nail the first half.”
Perry finished 20 of 25 for 229 yards passing for the Bull Dogs, who outgained the Grizzly Cubs 407-132.
Franklin fumbled seven times, losing one. North’s Harley Huser intercepted a fourth down pass on one of the Grizzly Cubs’ first drives in Bull Dog territory.
“I think that our kids did a great job defensively, and offensively, we made a few plays. We just couldn’t quite come up with that play when we needed one and punch one in early,” Franklin coach Adam Reese said.
“I think that could have seriously changed the complexion of the game. But I told our kids at halftime I was very excited with the way that they played. I think maybe we just kind of ran out of gas in the second half.”