Franklin’s football field has witnessed far better cartwheels than the one Darrin Fisher performed at the 6-yard line Friday night.
The Whiteland coach only attempts them after a Warriors victory, so critique all you want.
“It’s kind of a tradition,” Fisher said after his squad hung on for a 24-21 win against the pesky Grizzly Cubs in a Mid-State Conference game. “Were my legs extended? It’s kind of embarrassing when my legs are bent.”
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Fisher’s postgame acrobatic display aside, Whiteland senior back Ryan Hammond stole the show with 22 carries for 176 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
His final score, a 35-yard jaunt only 47 seconds into the third quarter, proved to be the game-winner and the only points of the second half — 0 along with the ensuing two-point conversion.
The remainder of the game featured stingy defense from both teams as Whiteland upped its win streak to 20 games and improved to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in league play.
Franklin’s most recent win in the series came in 2003 by the score of 34-20.
“We talked about going on the road; it’s a rivalry game that was going to take a special kind of toughness that was physical, emotional and mental,” Fisher said. “I think we were able to show that.
“I don’t think we executed as well down the stretch as we wanted to, but I think our defense showed some tremendous resilience after a tough first half. We made some adjustments, but the biggest adjustment was just playing with that toughness.”
Franklin (0-4, 0-1) received 98 yards rushing from senior running back Tyler Fromer, while sophomore Drew Byerly completed 13 of 27 pass attempts for 212 yards. Senior receiver Riley McCann was credited with eight receptions for 142 yards and a score.
McCann’s final catch, a 35-yarder in front of the Warriors’ bench with under a minute left, advanced the football to the Whiteland 47. Three straight Bylerly incompletions and the quarterback’s 5-yard run on fourth down put the ball back in the visitors’ possession.
Franklin delivered an impressive goal-line stand as time expired in the second quarter to maintain a 21-16 lead at halftime.
Trailing 16-7, the Grizzly Cubs responded with Fromer’s 46-yard touchdown run around left end 10 seconds into the second stanza. A Whiteland interception two plays later set up a 56-yard Cubs’ scoring drive punctuated by Fromer’s 1-yard plunge.
Late in the half, the Warriors marched from their own 5-yard line to the Franklin 1 — the big play coming on quarterback Iyan Pelfree’s 62-yard toss to senior wideout Matt Luechtefeld.
With 4.3 seconds remaining and Whiteland out of timeouts, Hammond was stuffed for no gain.
Whiteland rushed for 180 yards during the first half, 109 coming from Hammond. The senior scored both of his team’s touchdowns on runs of 1 and 44 yards. Fromer rushed for 93 yards before halftime.
Next week, Whiteland steps away from conference play when it travels to Class 6A No. 9 Avon. The Grizzly Cubs also hit the road with a trip to Martinsville.