Seniors on the Franklin Community High School football roster should be excused if they can’t recall specifics of their program’s most recent win against Whiteland.
They were, after all, only second-graders.
Whiteland’s overwhelming series dominance in recent years is equipped with fairly staggering numbers — 12 consecutive wins, 35.8 points averaged and an average margin of victory of 20.8 points.
However, it should be noted that these aren’t your father’s Grizzly Cubs. Or even your older brother’s.
A win tonight at home would place Franklin at 4-0 for the first time since 1996, which also happens to be the most recent time Franklin finished a season with a winning record (6-3).
The Grizzly Cubs enter tonight’s Mid-State Conference game ranked 15th in Class 5A, one notch below the Warriors.
“For us, it’s just like it is for Franklin, a game where you have to be emotionally and physically prepared to play,” said Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher, who is 11-0 against Franklin, having bounced the Grizzly Cubs from sectional competition three times in his eight seasons.
“They always talk about games where you throw the records out the window, and I would say that’s the case here,” he added.
Whiteland displayed resiliency last week by defeating Decatur Central seven days after being humbled at Class 6A No. 2 Center Grove 56-0.
Franklin is coming off a 44-8 victory against Class A Howe and has outscored its first three opponents 117-21.
Off to fast starts for the Warriors’ offense are two seniors, tailback Jeffrey Wooten with 330 yards rushing and five touchdowns, and quarterback Donnie Richard with 386 passing yards and a 64 percent completion rate. Junior receiver Isaiah Calaway has 14 receptions for 367 yards (26.2 average) and two touchdowns.
Sophomore Carter Beers has thus far returned 14 kickoffs for an eye-opening 42.1-yard average.
Defensively, Whiteland’s top tacklers are linebackers Jesse Street (20 tackles) and Nick Ratti (18.5) and nose tackle Skylar Hall (17).
The Cubs have stalwarts of their own on defense, including junior Jacob Stevenson with 32 tackles. End Alex Claxton is next with 27, and safety Matt Wyrick has 22 to go along with two interceptions.
Senior fullback Ross Barr has flourished in new coach Adam Reese’s flexbone triple option offense with 52 carries for 541 yards (10.7 average) and seven touchdowns.
Reese understands the importance of momentum, something Franklin has following three consecutive victories. He nonetheless realizes to compete in the Mid-State the bar of one’s own expectations must be raised.
“Getting into the conference season, obviously the level of play will go up. I hope ours will, too,” Reese said. “I know Whiteland is going to play really, really hard and that they’re very well-coached. They don’t take plays off.
“When a team plays like that you know you’re going to be in for a battle.”
Whiteland defeated Franklin last season 34-7. Only three times in the past dozen matchups between these Johnson County rivals has the point differential been single-digits — 36-34 in 2011, 33-27 in overtime to decide a Class 4A sectional title in 2006, and 20-19 in 2004.