Daily Journal staff reports
One year away from the NCAA Division III football playoffs was enough for Franklin College.
With a week still to go in the regular season, the Grizzlies clinched the HCAC championship and corresponding tourney bid with a 63-17 thumping of Anderson in their home finale on Saturday.
Franklin (7-2, 7-0) got on the board just 73 seconds into the game, scoring on its first play from scrimmage when Chase Burton connected with Deontez Alexander for a 47-yard touchdown. The senior quarterback later hit Alex Smith and Lee Wroblewski on scoring tosses of 15 and 26 yards to give the Grizzlies a 21-0 lead after one quarter.
Jordan Brown stretched that lead to 28 with a 2-yard touchdown run just 13 seconds into the second period, and the rout was on. Alexander and Brown each scored again before the Grizzlies started emptying the bench in the third quarter.
“It was great to see our everyone get in the game and have some fun today,” Franklin coach Mike Leonard said. “Everyone was getting behind everyone that stepped on the field and cheering for them today, and that was great for our team.”
Burton completed 28 of 38 passes for 393 yards and five scores for Franklin, which totaled 659 yards of offense. Alexander, who finished with 116 yards on five receptions, has 16 touchdown catches on the year to lead all Division III players. Brown rushed for 98 yards.
Tyrone Thomas returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown for Franklin in the third quarter. Ryan Conner and Trace Rooks also picked off passes, with Conner’s coming in the opening minute of the game after the Grizzlies had fumbled away the opening kickoff.
Though clinching a conference title in what may have been their final game at Faught Stadium was particularly sweet for the seniors, they aren’t going to be satisfied with accomplishing only that.
“It means a lot being able to clinch the conference championship but we know we have to keep going,” senior running back Jimmy Phillips said. “We have the Victory Bell coming up next week (at Hanover) and then playoffs after that. “This one feels good, but we know there’s still a lot of football left to be played.”