Grizzlies take charge in HCAC race

A year ago, Rose-Hulman came to Franklin College and pulled out a one-point upset victory that wound up costing the Grizzlies an outright HCAC football championship and a spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs.

On Saturday, Franklin got its revenge.

In a battle between the two remaining unbeatens in conference play, the Grizzlies rallied to take the lead late in the third period and held on through a scoreless fourth for a 29-22 road win.

“I’m really proud of our guys’ character and how they responded to adversity today,” Franklin head coach Mike Leonard said. “We tell them they’re going to face adversity in life and it’s all about how they respond. Today they responded positively.”

Senior quarterback Chase Burton staked the Grizzlies (5-2, 5-0 HCAC) to a 14-3 lead early, scoring on a 1-yard keeper and hitting Deontez Alexander for an 8-yard score. Rose-Hulman responded, though, scoring three unanswered touchdowns to pull ahead, 22-14, midway through the third quarter.

Franklin then committed a turnover and appeared to be in serious trouble, but the defense came up with a fourth-down stop at the 4:37 mark of the third, and Burton found Lee Wroblewski on a 21-yard TD throw a little more than a minute later. The two hooked up again on a two-point conversion to tie it.

Fazaun Stephens ended the Engineers’ next drive with an interception, and Burton followed by hooking up with Alexander for a 64-yard score to put the Grizzlies back on top with eight seconds to go in the quarter.

The fourth quarter belonged to the Franklin College defense, which did not yield another first down, and running back Jordan Brown, who carried the ball 34 times for a career-best 166 yards.

“The key to the game was our offensive line,” Leonard said. “Chase did a great job stepping up in the pocket and avoiding their rush. Our coaches had a great scheme for the run game but our players did a great job executing that game plan. We were able to run the ball for chunks of yards at a time late and keep their offense off the field.”

Burton completed 32 of 54 passes for 467 yards and became the second player in Franklin history to throw for 10,000 yards in his career. Tanner Wroblewski finished the game with 11 catches for 175 yards.

Defensively, Austin Fleming led the Grizzlies with 10 tackles, while Trace Rooks, Jay McClain, Nathan Warman and Tyler Reed each collected nine.