Watching Franklin College’s football team run its high-powered no-huddle offense is a thing of beauty.
The Grizzlies, ranked No. 13 in the latest D3football.com poll, stepped on the accelerator early and never let up, beating Heartland Conference rival Manchester 48-7 on Saturday at Stewart “Red” Faught Stadium.
Franklin coach Mike Leonard reiterated his comments of the past two weeks following two heartbreaking three-point losses to defending national champion Mount Union and Butler.
“Yes, we were disappointed, yet encouraged at the same time. But with this win today, we’ve taken the first step toward winning our fourth straight conference title and our goals are intact,” said Leonard.
“We’re never going to take for granted any victories around here. I’ve been on the short-end of the stick many times in my first few years here. But I was pleased with the way the guys came out and played in that first half.”
A preseason All-America pick senior quarterback Jonny West, in only three quarters of play, threw four touchdown passes and rushed for another, giving the Grizzlies just what they needed in their conference opener. His head-turning numbers included 30 of 34 completions for 296 yards to eight different receivers.
Junior Jonny Hession had five catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Zach Cole caught a touchdown pass and finished with six receptions for 40 yards. And, West’s favorite target, senior Kyle Linville, had a touchdown with five receptions for 60 yards.
West said after the game that the team couldn’t wait to get back to action following the first two weeks of the season.
“We knew coming in that all our goals were still in reach to win the conference and get in the playoffs,” he said.
As for the hurry-up offense, West added, “I like getting in that rhythm. Once we get a little momentum, everything progresses on each play and it works really well for us.”
In the fourth quarter, Leonard turned the keys over to guys who normally don’t get much playing time. Backup junior quarterback Grant Welp completed 3 of 6 passes for 54 yards, including a 24-touchdown pass to freshman Zay Thornton.
In all, the Grizzlies (1-2, 1-0) rolled up 427 yards compared to Manchester’s 236.
Franklin’s defense was boosted by the play of linebackers Scott Moore, Jordan Segner and Keaton Lyons and defensive end Dominique Boyd.
The Grizzlies now have won 27 straight HCAC games, tying the fourth-longest active conference winning streak in the nation.
In looking ahead toward this week’s game at conference foe Earlham, Leonard said nothing changes in terms of preparation.
“We’re going to strive for perfection. We’ve got to play to our level all the time,” he said. “I’m a blessed man to be the head coach here and to be coaching some great young men.”