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Grizzlies roar into second round of playoffs

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After being held scoreless in the opening quarter, Franklin College exploded for four touchdowns in the second period and went on to rout host Adrian College 42-10 in their first-round NCAA Division III football playoff game Saturday.

The Grizzlies, who earned a first-round contest in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, improved to 9-2. Franklin is ranked 20th in this week’s American Football Coaches Association Divison III Top 25 Coaches Poll.

The 25th-ranked Bulldogs, who had won nine straight games heading into their first NCAA postseason appearance since 1988, finished at 9-2.

Franklin next will play at second-ranked University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (11-0) in Belton, Texas, in Saturday’s second round.

Against Adrian, junior quarterback Jonny West completed 24 of 37 passes for 303 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Grizzlies’ offensive attack.

Junior split end Kyle Linville made nine receptions for 176 yards and three touchdowns, and senior running back Luke Hamm rushed 10 times for 68 yards and a score.

Franklin piled up 511 total yards of offense on the Performance Stadium turf to Adrian’s 225. The Grizzlies outgained the hosts 206-52 on the ground and had 305 passing yards to the Bulldogs’ 173.

Holding Adrian to 10 points had Franklin head coach Mike Leonard beaming afterward.

“Our offense has always gotten a lot of publicity, but the defense this year, and even the last few years, has been outstanding,” Leonard said. “We didn’t know coming into a playoff atmosphere with a tough running game like Adrian’s if we could stop the run and keep them out of the end zone. But hats off to the defense.”

Franklin got on the scoreboard first when sophomore running back Sam Otley rushed for a three-yard touchdown to cap a nine-play, 50-yard drive.

The visitors then went up 14-0 when West connected with Linville on a 31-yard touchdown pass play 3-1/2 minutes later.

Adrian answered with a 2-yard scoring rush by Kyle Smock midway in the quarter, but the Grizzlies reached the end zone twice more before halftime.

West hit Linville with a 7-yard TD strike, and then found senior split end Ben Hamlin with another 7-yard scoring toss to put Franklin up 28-7.

The Bulldogs then got a 26-yard field goal by Dustin Salliotte with time running out before halftime.

The Grizzlies added one touchdown in both the third quarter to wrap up the scoring assault.

Frankln’s defense was led by junior linebacker Jordan Segner, who made 10 total tackles and forced a fumble. Junior cornerback Zack Corpe, the HCAC’s MVP on Defense in 2012, had eight total tackles and broke up two passes, and junior linebacker Scott Moore made 8 total tackles.

Franklin evened its record in NCAA III playoff games at 4-4 under Leonard since making its first appearance in 2007.

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