Franklin brought the thunder before lightning stopped the game.
The visiting Grizzly Cubs channeled the emotions of a heart-wrenching summer into a 61-7 pummeling of Seymour in Friday night’s season-opener.
“It’s awesome to come out and play,” said fullback Jacob Stevenson, who led the assault with four rushing touchdowns in the Cubs’ first game since players Jason Moran and Michael Chadbourne died following an incident at the Big Blue River dam in Edinburgh in June.
“It’s a relief, but we sure wish those guys were still with us.
“It would be a lot better then.”
The outcome could have been worse, but coach Adam Reese pulled his starters midway through the third period, and lightning ended the game prematurely with just under five minutes remaining on a humid night.
That was more than enough for the Cubs to put their stamp on this one.
“Any win is a good one,” Reese said. “But with all the stuff we’ve been through, it’s nice to come out and be able to put it together on the field.”
Whether it was inspired or simply better, Franklin was virtually unstoppable on offense and a stifling swarm on defense.
After Seymour marched the opening kickoff 68 yards for a 7-0 lead, the Cubs took little time asserting their dominance.
Senior Chad Williams took the Owls’ kickoff down the left sideline 99 yards virtually untouched to tie the game at 7.
From there, Stevenson and a scrappy, grabbing defense put the game away in a 14-minute, 34-point blitz.
“We didn’t come out ready that first drive on defense,” said Stevenson, a senior who plays bigger than his 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame. “We got our heads in it after they scored.”
After a snap soared over the Seymour punter’s head, giving Franklin the ball at the Owls’ 37, Stevenson burst up the middle for the score to make it 14-7.
Damon Munn’s strip and 13-yard return set up a 12-yard Stevenson touchdown on the next possession.
Another fumble recovery and 37-yard run by Zach Dowell set up Stevenson’s third score, a 22-yard run up the middle as the Cubs line showed its dominance.
A fumbled punt was returned eight yards by Drew Utterback to make it 35-7 midway through the second quarter.
From there, the hard-hitting Cubs defense forced another fumble on the Owls’ next possession. Ryan Torrance scooped it up for an 8-yard score to make it 41-7.
In all, the Owls lost four fumbles in a brutal first half (five total), each leading to a Franklin score.
“I think we fumbled nine times,” Seymour coach Josh Shattuck said. “You can’t beat a freshman team fumbling nine times.”
Because of the short field, Seymour actually outgained Franklin from scrimmage in the half, 128-125.
Any thought of a comeback was thwarted when sophomore quarterback T.J. Ahlefeld hit split end Mark Nally with a 39-yard strike on the first drive of the third period. That set up Stevenson’s fourth score, a nine-yard run.
“Jacob is a great player. We know that,” Reese said. “But he can’t do what he does unless the offensive line is blowing off the ball and making those holes.”
Senior halfback Torrance added two scores, including a 59-yard third quarter blast that ended the night for the starters.
Torrance and Stevenson combined for 212 yards and six scores on just 13 carries behind an offense that committed only one penalty.
Drew Utterback, who returned a fumble recovery, and backup quarter Connor Burton added second half scores.
Junior Justin Beasley connected on six of seven extra points.
Still, the night was bittersweet, with Reese awarding each player with helmet stickers to carry the memory of their two fallen teammates.
“There’s no doubt those other two are on our minds all the time,” said the coach, who added his team was finally ready for the release of taking the field. “I don’t have to remind them about that.”
The Cubs’ home opener is Friday against Shelbyville.